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Negawatts, not Megawatts

Networking Solutions For Electrical Energy Management

One of the higher priorities on our clients’ cost-cutting list has become their monthly electrical bill. This is a recurring cost that our custom electronic solutions appear to negatively impact, but can be corrected with the proper hardware.

Thanks to relatively new power line monitoring solutions, we can give our networked clients the ability to monitor and control much of the equipment that we sell to them, helping to reduce the electrical consumption of our solutions and adding a greater awareness to the electrical usage in their homes. In this column we’ll review a couple of these IP-enabled, power-sensing “power strips.”

A new product from a Charleston, South Carolina, company called TED (The Energy Detective) is an ingenious device that can be easily retrofitted into any existing home to measure and graphically display all of a home’s electrical energy usage, down to a 10-watt accuracy. At the

A new product from a company called TED (The Energy Detective) can be easily retrofitted into any existing home to measure and graphically display all of a home’s electrical energy usage. circuit panel, you install the two current transformers around the power lines coming into the home. These transformers then transfer real-time energy consumption data over the power lines to a monitoring screen that you can plug in anywhere in the home. I have mine plugged into an outlet next to my office computer where I can keep an eye on every kilowatt that is being used.

In addition, the TED 1001/2 has a USB port, which alerts you to unnecessary lights being turned on, computers left on, pool pumps that may be on too long, inefficient refrigerators, etc., and can send the data it collects to my computer so I can graphically see the hourly, daily, and monthly kilowatt hours that my home consumes. Last year our home averaged 2,400 kwh/month. Over the last three months we have dropped our average monthly usage down to about 1,800 kwh, simply by becoming more aware of our electrical consumption and actively turning off devices that were 7/24 energy sinks. At $0.34/kwh that represents about a $200/month savings, thus covering the cost of this device in only one month.

In the next-generation TED device (the 5,000 series that is due out shortly) they will be able to deliver this data to a “gateway” that can be plugged in anywhere in the home. It will be designed to send monitoring information to any computer or from their ZigBee-enabled monitoring device. TED already has announced partnerships with Control4 and Exceptional Innovations, and we expect to see the integration of their energy-monitoring portals in these home control software solutions by this fall.


Once the obvious steps have been taken to reduce electrical power consumption in the home, we can turn our attention to devices that can schedule or trigger power to be reduced.

For under $600, APC has introduced an IPbased power strip (the model AP7900/7901) that can be rack mounted and uses a web-based scheduler to turn on and off any device install in the AV rack. If whole-house audio amplifiers are not used between midnight and 6:00 a.m., for instance, then we can turn them off. If media servers are not used during that same time period, then we can turn them off as well. If the client goes away on vacation, we could turn

Gordon van Zuiden ([email protected]) is president of cyberManor, in Los Gatos, California. everything off in the rack (except, for example, their personal video recorders).

If this sounds like the beginning of a recurring revenue model based on providing energy monitoring for our clients’ homes, then you are getting the right idea. As a power-sensing solution for the AV gear in your surround sound zones, APC has introduced the P7GT (lists for under $50), which will sense power going to the TV set. If there is not enough power to turn on the TV, then the receiver, Blu-ray players, or gaming stations (up to three devices, total), will be completely turned off, eliminating “vampire power” for these products in their “sleep mode.”

These products provide very cost-effective solutions that highlight the concept of “negawatts” (reducing power consumption) over megawatts (adding power sources). As the custom integrators of our networked clients’ homes, we are in the perfect position to educate, install, and train our clients on how these products can reduce their monthly utility bills and mitigate their concern that our products adversely affect their monthly electrical consumption.