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How much energy is your home consuming? And where is it going?

Home energy monitoring is an industry that has experienced rapid growth over last 5 years but this is a question that many home owners still find themselves asking. Traditionally, home energy management systems can very easily measure the total power consumption of the household and in the case of home energy generation, the amount produced.

But where is this energy being consumed? What is the amount of power used by your refrigerator compared to your stove, or your boiler compared to your iron? And possibly even more importantly, if you are generating your own power using a periodic source such as solar, when is it being used?

Our engineers have been asking themselves this same question - of their own homes. Many of the existing smart home solutions on the market either require you to fit additional infrastructure or wireless sensors to your house. These come in the form of plug-in meters directly at your plug sockets or sensor clips that measure the magnetic field around a power cable for a device.  These sensors can be expensive and ungainly.  A far more elegant solution can be found by the installation of a single monitor in your breaker panel.

Figure 1: home power usage and generation (24 hours)

Each device in your household has a unique electronic signature. A discrete pulse if you will. This signature is detectable in your mains panel where, using specialized software and algorithms it can be extracted from the noise and the device, white goods or appliance can be identified. From this the power consumption of each item can be determined. The graphs here show the average daily power consumption (Figure 1) of one of the houses we have been monitoring, and alongside it the unique electronic signature of the fridge (Figure 2).

For households that generate their own power they can either invest in an expensive battery to store energy for periods of high demand or use smart energy management techniques to balance consumption with production. A small battery may always be required to some extent but why not minimise this storage requirement as much as possible by intelligently monitoring and controlling your appliances and devices.

Smart metering companies such as Sense, Smappee or Neurio have made excellent advances in technology that monitor and provide distinction between energy consuming appliances. But why are we not yet seeing this kind of technology adopted in every home? How much information and data is still not being utilized? And how can we usefully extract this from the background noise?  Achieving suitable levels of accuracy is already challenging. It requires complex noise subtraction and machine learning algorithms to achieve an acceptable level of granulation. But when this data is combined with a strong digital service an incredible level of clarity can be gained into the energy usage of your home.

Figure 2: fridge electronic signature

We also find ourselves asking: "where else could technology such as this be used? Office blocks, smart factories, cruise ships?”

Tom Fry

Tom is a Senior Engineer and Project Manager with six years of experience in industrial projects and product development. He enjoys identifying and working on innovative technologies and services for business transformation.