The conversation on my original post on energy monitoring and controls has been fantastic. Great ideas have been presented and examples that approximate my wishful thinking have been shared. Thank you to all of you who added your input.
After looking through all the links and concepts shared in the comments of the last post, I still think there is room for someone to develop a more intuitive, comprehensive and affordable solution. Most of what actually exists right now is either designed for highly complex commercial applications or falls far short of the whole vision for this system. There are residential home automation solutions and energy monitoring options, but as far as I have seen, nobody has integrated the two smoothly. So, we are going to dream a little more.
I imagine a system in which each point of power use (ideally), or each collection of points (if each is impossible) is provided with a watt meter and a wireless switch. These switches and meters would be capable of communicating with a web based software application which could, in turn, be controlled by cell phone applications and desktop widgets. The main application, in my fevered imagination, would be a dashboard based web interface that looks something like this . . .
Keep in mind, this is just a very rough concept. Ignore the logo and the content and just imagine how nice it would be to bring something like this up on your computer. You could quickly view energy usage of your entire home, compare it to past usage and check the status of various sources of use. Now imagine you want to change the state of various outlets, lights and appliances . . .
The control interface would allow you to operate the wireless switches on individual fixtures, groups, zones or the entire house. Lights might have dimming capabilities or presets. One could easily exclude important “always on” systems from the whole-house or whole-zone off functions. With the integrated watt meters, the user could also easily see how much energy each item was using and the total energy use based on each on/off setting. This would be a great means of educating the user and sure way to increase savings through awareness.
Setup would obviously be a challenging component of this system. The user would have to assign each source a name and then place it in groups or zones for easy control. Each outlet, light and appliance would need to be setup in order for the system to function properly. It will be a bit of a pain in the neck, but in the end, I think the process could be instructive.
This will also probably be the most challenging interface design element. It will be difficult to make such a setup both versatile and intuitive. I imagine something along the lines of . . .
Users would be able to name each input and assign that input to a zone and group. Each name would be entirely custom and easily changed, so that if the user moves their toaster, for example, it is easy to change the assigned outlet’s name and function. Zones and groups could then be used to simplify controls either via suggested parameters or the user’s own whim. The above is obviously somewhat simplified, but I think the concept is there.
I know, in some ways, this thinking is reinventing the wheel. Much of what I am talking about already exists and some of it is already very well designed. However, at times reinvention is an easier task than combining different systems and concepts to create what you want. I think, to create a fully integrated, easy to use system, it will have to be built from scratch.
So, we ask again, is this feasible? Has it been done already? What key components am I missing? And, most importantly, who wants to build this thing for me?
Comments are open.
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