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Authors Landon Gardner
Jerome Arthur
Location Kingston, Canada
Instance of Green IT
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Monitoring energy consumption can motivate consumers to save energy by reducing waste. As a Green IT Energy Conservation Measure, the scope of this monitoring is limited to electricity, however similar systems can be used to monitor and reduce gas and water consumption.

The consumption of electricity changes the environment. Examples of physical changes required to produce electricity are power stations, pipelines, tree felling and dam construction. In addition to the direct physical impact, these things produce emissions such as carbon dioxide and other waste gases that are released into the atmosphere. However, these emissions, as well as other effects of personal energy consumption, are often difficult for a layman measure or observe. To encourage them to stop wasting electricity, people need to realize the financial cost. Energy monitoring is a good way to bring about that realization.

Spreadsheet: alternative file route ECM files

The spreadsheet is now working properly. Due to compatibility issues please use the google sites link to download our file, after you click on the link it is under the 'files' section. Please post any comments and suggestions in the discussion forum. PAY ATTENTION TO THE COST OF ELECTRICITY YOU AND INPUT AND HOW, very important for accurate prediction of savings and $$$ amounts.

Analysis of Monitoring Systems[edit | edit source]

Electricity is typically monitored at the incoming feed for simplicity. Electricity demand is measured and relayed to consumers instantaneously through hand-held displays and/or computers. Some products like the PowerCost monitor BLI-28000 have an appliance button that allows the user to see specific power consumption by creating a baseline. Higher models of the The Energy Detective 5000 allow for multiple monitoring locations providing more detailed information. The In Home Display has a patented lightbar to tell the user at a glance how much power he/she is using, and what the relative cost of power is at that time. It changes colors between green, yellow, and red depending on the current cost of power, and the lights scroll at a rate proportional to the rate of electricity consumption measured. Some monitors are located near meters, inside buildings, or in breakers. The different monitoring methods result in varying installation complexities, some of which require an electrician.

Selection Criteria[edit | edit source]

To choose the appropriate energy monitoring system, consider the following factors:

  • Capital Costs
  • Installation fee
  • System hardware cost
  • Annual subscription fee
  • Data Presentation

Since this initiative is based on changing behavioral patterns it is very important that energy consumption information is relayed in an adequate manner. Some systems have only a hand-held device, while others allow you to view information on a computer. The best choice is a balance between costs and product features for the intended user. Below is a comparison of some of the units out on the market.

Company Product Name Nation Presentation Method(s) Presentation Score Installation Type[1] Installation Cost[2] Product Cost Annual Fee[3] Total Cost Overall Score
Aztech Meter In-Home-Display Canada Hand-held Display. Information-at-a-glance lightbar. 4.5 No Installation Required $0 $249 $0 $249 4.5
MJ Innovations PowerWatch Canada Hand-held Display, Download data via USB 3.5 Electrician $33/hour $350 $0 $383 4
Crossbow EcoWizard Japan Computer via wireless 4 Electrician $33/hour Not Listed $0 Not Listed 3.5
Blue Line Innovations PowerCost monitor BLI-28000 Canada Hand-held Display 4 User Installed $0 $119 $0 $119 4
pulse energy Pulse[4] Canada Web based software 5 Electrician $33/hour Higher Fee Variable 5
Energy, Inc. The Energy Detective 1000 USA Hand-held Display 3 Technically savvy or Electrician $33/hour $119.95 $0 $152.95 3.5
Energy, Inc. The Energy Detective 5000G USA Hand-held Display, Google PowerMeter 4.5 Technically savvy or Electrician $33/hour $239.95 $0 $272.95 4.5
 All prices listed in Canadian Dollars, taxes not included 
[1]Installation Type: Systems that did not specify user installation were assumed to require an electrician 
[2]Installation Cost: Amount based on highest rate for a Canadian Electrician with 20+ years experience, data from PayScale.com 
[3]Annual costs: Listed cost only includes annual product fees. All systems incur small electricity costs which are negligible compared to savings.
[4]Pulse energy gives quotes on specific jobs. Annual fee is for mandatory web based software. Pulse energy is best suited for large buildings. 

Product of Choice[edit | edit source]

For a small business, a good choice is The Energy Detective 5000G. It has moderate upfront costs, and is compatible with Google PowerMeter. The digital display in the 5000G series and Google PowerMeter connectivity allow all employees to see the company's power consumption. Recent technological advancements allow this information to be viewed on smart phones and PDAs as well for portable and off site viewing. The added visuals and accessibility of information make this initiative harder to ignore, which should result in higher energy awareness, and in turn higher savings. The PowerWatch and PowerCost monitor BLI-28000 should be considered as well, because of their close proximity to Canadian customers. The added functionality of The Energy Detective 5000G will cause more savings over the life of the product, which will offset the initial increase in shipping-caused emissions. The In Home Display boasts a low cost, no required installation, lightbar, and a comprehensive amount of data available to the user. For these reasons it shouldn't be ignored. MJ Innovations is currently developing a unit for commercial and industrial use, judging by their existing products this could be a good choice for small businesses.

For a large business, the best choice of the above products would be the services provided by Pulse energy. Pulse energy provides a much more detailed breakdown of energy usage. This software which is only available online allows both building occupants and management to see energy usage. This is ideal in a building with multiple tenants. The company also provides extensive reporting through their analysis software which is being used by the Government of British Columbia and the University of British Columbia as part of million dollar projects. A downfall of this system is the annual fee the company charges for continued use of their software, the reporting medium. Additional savings and reports provided to the consumer should offset these costs as this system can be designed to read any type of energy metering hardware or building automation system.

Most advertised units on the market are targeted at the residential user. The chosen unit should have limited upfront costs but an effective visual display.The PowerCost monitor BLI-28000 provides this balance and is already a very popular choice as many utilities companies have given them to the customers they service to reduce energy demand.

zerofootprint is currently in the pilot test phase of their new product the talkingplug, which could potentially make strides in this market due to the breakdown of energy usage and multi-channel feedback provided by this system. Depending on upfront costs and potential annual fees, this could be a good choice for both business and residential applications.

Benefits[edit | edit source]

Significant reductions in energy consumption have been achieved in various residential and commercial settings after the installation of appropriate energy monitoring systems. Some examples are listed below.

After various projects aiming to increase environmental awareness, a review of 38 studies carried out over a 25 year period showed a result of 5% savings or more in almost all projects. The highest savings, in the region of 20%, were found as a result of an interactive cost and power display unit.[1]

"Multiple independent studies have proven that in-home access to the right tools enhances energy awareness and leads to direct financial savings that can typically range from at least 5 percent to greater than 15 percent per home."

  • Allan Hundhausen, founder of FutureDash Home Energy Monitoring Software[2]

Another study done by Osaka University in Japan consisted of installing "energy consumption information systems" in nine residential houses. Major findings included a 9% reduction in power consumption and reduced power consumption for household appliances not being monitored.[3]

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland chose to monitor 44 households after installing "energy consumption indicators" (ECIs) in 31 of them. Across a minimum monitoring period of two months, 14 out of 31 households achieved energy savings of greater than 10% and six of these achieved savings of greater than 20%. The average reduction for households employing an ECI was 15%, whereas those provided with paper-based energy use information alone reduced their electricity consumption, on average, by only 3%.[4]

In conservation studies in the United States and Canada, an Energy Cost Indicator (ECI) was installed in four cities. An ECI is an electronic monitoring device with a digital display to provide information on the cost of energy use in the household. The first experiments with the ECI concluded that the ECI has a positive impact on consumer knowledge of in-home energy use and helps residents reduce energy consumption.[5]

Limitations[edit | edit source]

Energy monitoring empowers consumers. The only physical change is the installation of a system that displays energy usage; savings and the effectiveness of this ECM are based entirely on the willingness of consumers. In the workplace it is important that employees feel engaged in conservation efforts. Encouragement from managers and/or employees being personally affected by the financial savings will ensure energy monitoring is effective. When employees are detached from the monitoring or not motivated to change, savings will be dramatically reduced if any are realised at all.

Energy monitoring manifests itself through different feedback methods. Direct Feedback through table-top units, computers and devices using programs like Google PowerMeter have shown the highest savings potentials.[6] Other feedback methods such as inadvertent and indirect produce reduced savings.

Energy monitoring is not as effective in situations where users pay fixed utilities rates in a building. In this case, the only benefit to conservation is sustaining the environment, as there is no financial incentive. Thus savings will only come from well informed individuals.

Conservation Methods[edit | edit source]

Energy monitoring simply makes the utility consumers more aware of their usage. This causes a behavioral change which leads to the implementation of Energy Conservation Measures. The simplest ways to reduce energy usage are to reduce wattage of appliances or the time they are on. For the costs associated with this ECM, only changes in behaviour are considered. This means the only costs over the life of the product is the initial setup and installation fees. Other measures, which could be introduced because of energy monitoring, need separate financial analysis which is not included in the scope of this ECM.

Energy Conservation Measures:

Mech425 GreenIT Project

References[edit | edit source]

  1. S. Darby, "Making it obvious: designing feedback into energy consumption," 2000.
  2. "FutureDash Introduces Home Energy Monitoring Software," December 2009.
  3. T. Ueno, F. Sano, O. Saeki and K. Tsuji, "Effectiveness of an energy-consumption information system on energy savings in residential houses based on monitored data," Appl. Energy, vol. 83, pp. 166-183, 2. 2006.
  4. G. Wood and M. Newborough, "Dynamic energy-consumption indicators for domestic appliances: environment, behaviour and design," Energy Build., vol. 35, pp. 821-841, 9. 2003.
  5. J. H. v. Houwelingen and W. F. v. Raaij, "The Effect of Goal-Setting and Daily Electronic Feedback on In-Home Energy Use," The Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 16, pp. 98-105, Jun. 1989.
  6. S. Darby, "Making it obvious: designing feedback into energy consumption," 2000.
FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Part of Mech425, Mech425 GreenIT Project
Keywords energy audit, energy conservation, energy efficiency
Authors Jerome Arthur, Scott Plaxton
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Organizations Queen's University
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 7 pages link here
Aliases Energy monitoring
Impact 582 page views
Created February 4, 2010 by Landon Gardner
Modified January 29, 2024 by Felipe Schenone
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