Monitoring electrical consumption

Friday, May 30th, 2008 8:20AM UTC

Anyone who knows me knows I like stats, the more information the better. Like a doctor, I want to measure vital metrics and our managed VPS service is no different. We know exactly how busy a customer’s VPS is and by which computer metric (CPU, memory, disk, etc.) they are bound by. This makes it easy to know when a VPS needs to be upgraded (throw more hardware at it) or the customer needs to re-engineer their application to scale better.

On the personal front I’ve taken the initiative to monitor our power consumption, heating and cooling use. I wanted to start monitoring our electrical use house wide, something we’ve done for years with our data centers. Who doesn’t these days with many wanting to be environmental friendly and with rising fuel costs? While the Kill A Watt is a great meter, it can only monitor a device that’s plugged into its electrical outlet. At Empowering Media we use the Kill A Watt meter to monitor a server’s power consumption before it goes into production.

What I always wanted was a method to monitor power consumption for our entire house. I found out such a product exists and is called the PowerCost Monitor. I found out about it on an “old” “Ask this Old House” episode. Simply attach the remote sensor on to your electric company’s meter and the display updates every 15-30 seconds. The setup in my case, with an analog meter, took only 15 minutes. Best of all, is you can plug in your KwH rate(s) from your power company and will tell you how much power it’s costing you up to the min. This means no surprises at the end of the month. This product is also great to determine where the big suckers of electrical use come from. If your wife complains (sorry Jeanne) about how much it costs by leaving a light on in a room, now you will know.


  1. On June 2nd, 2008 4:14+00:00 UTC Rob M says:

    Sweet! I’ve been meaning to look to see if something like this exists. Sometime last year, I checked out a company called CitizenrÄ“ that will install solar panels and generators in your house and have a network enabled app to monitor it. This page has some info on it:
    I think there’s a better page that shows this desktop widget they have that you can use to monitor your system in real time… couldn’t find that at the moment though.

  2. On June 2nd, 2008 7:40+00:00 UTC lludwig says:

    @Rob M: My in-laws (otherwise known as outlaws) looked into this product to work with their solar panels and it will not work when it goes backwards. The only thing I wish it did have was PC/IP based interface. So if there is something specific for solar panels, even better. In our case we can only use traditional power so this product was a good fit for us.

    I’m also currently using a IP based thermostat that be controlled remotely and can extract data to generate rrdtool graphs:

  3. On May 31st, 2011 5:26+00:00 UTC Josh says:

    Have you ever tried the TED5000? I heard it does way more than the Kill-a-watt.

  4. On June 16th, 2011 2:54+00:00 UTC Larry says:

    Hi Josh. No I have not.

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