Whenever we talk about smart homes, we also discuss the issue of monitoring the energy usage of each electrical appliance. Imagine if we could tell which energy device is consuming extra energy, we can change our use behaviour and save both energy and money.
The technology seen over the past years to monitor appliance energy consumption is only possible via complex wiring, individual appliance basis and expensive installation. For instance, a smart refrigerator or smart plug will tell you energy usage of a single device but what if there was a monitoring system that could cover the entire house? An accurate, small sized gadget that can tell you the consumption of every power load? Good news for you. MIT is currently working on it.
A team of researchers under Professor Steven Leeb at MIT have created a technology that can indicate individual power consumption of each device being used with pinpoint accuracy. Not only this, it is also easy to install and will be available at affordable price.
How the system works?
The “system” is actually a stamp-sized sensor that is attached to the main power line of a house. The software monitors the patterns and spikes in voltage, thus identifying the average energy used by each appliance. MIT News says that the software can “tell the difference between every different kind of light, motor, and other device in the home and show exactly which ones go on and off, at what times.”
Another key feature of this technology is that it maintains the privacy of the consumer’s energy consumption data. During the testing phase, the system has not only saved money and energy but in some instances have also made homes safer. E.g. in one home test, the device detected a voltage upsurge which led to team to find a faulty wiring in copper plumbing wires that carried live current. (Shudders)
It took the team 10 long years to develop a device that could be easily installed and which can interpret the sensor data to discover energy consumption by individual appliances and keep a constant check on it. The years of testing in residential areas and Army bases helped the researchers in developing an index of energy signature of each device on the basis of specific voltage patterns when it is turned on and when it is being used. So now, the device not only tells you about the energy usage of a refrigerator but also indicates whether it is on or off.
The product will soon enter commercialization and when it does, it will cost just about $25 – $30 for every household and will be installed easily in homes by a zip tie. Perhaps then you can point out the sibling who does not turn off the lights in his room 24/7 or keep his laptop plugged in when not in use. Let us know what you think of it!