In Germany you need to install an intelligent electricity meter if you make larger changes to the electricity installation in your house (or if you build a new one). At first this sounds interesting. If you look closer, you need to decide if you want to laugh or to cry.
Such an intelligent electricity meter is able to display the current power consumption in a digital display (if the power consumption stays the same, you can test with this how much power a specific device needs). It is also able to attribute the power consumption to different times of the day. An optional feature (here in Germany) is the possibility to transfer captured data to the power company. It is not required that the home-owner is able to see all or even any data from an intelligent electricity meter.
The promises are, that with such a device people could pay less money by using the washing machine or the dish washer or similar devices during times when not much people want to use energy.
So far so good, but…
- My washing machine or dish washer are about 1 – 3 years old. We did not buy the cheapest ones, but they do not offer to start the washing upon input from an external signal or just by activating the power (if they lose power, the chosen washing program is reset to the default program). Am I supposed to buy a new one?
- The power consumption of all the necessary infrastructure (digital stuff in the electricity meter, network connection to the power company) is not zero, and it is the owner who has to pay for this.
- When everyone is washing when not much people want to use energy, a lot of people want to use energy in such moments. It may still help a bit the power companies because they do not have to generate power (and have expenses because of this) which is not used, but I doubt the consumer will get a big reduction then.
- The duration of such power-surplus times with a reduced price may not last during the complete time a washing machine needs. It may be even the case that a high-price time slot may get activated shortly after (if this is done by (malicious) intent or not is not even relevant, as the consumer can not do something about it as he is probably sleeping when this happens in the night).
- The power company may be able to get a detailed trace of what happens in a house (the owners are getting up at 11am, only take a shower every two weeks, have probably a big plasma TV which runs all the day, …).
- I doubt the device is free of security holes or protected enough against eavesdropping (with all the profiling implications, or possibilities to manipulate the data (positively or negatively) directly in the device before transmission to the power company).
- I do not think the most intelligent and consumer-friendly devices will come with enough statistics or access-possibilities to really satisfy the consumers.
More interesting would other things which could help cut costs. For example small low-power networked sensors which detect if a window/door is open, the temperature in a room, the outside temperature, the sunlight intensity and so on. Together with some actuators like for example to close the window, close the shutter, change the heating, turn off lamps and so on, it would provide much more immediate benefit. In a new building, the network could be wired, but in an old building the sensors need to be wireless and battery-powered.
A possible solution could be done via bluetooth v3 in a mesh network (yes, if it is not open source, I would also be sceptical if the company which produces this has enough knowledge to make it secure), polled by a central station which could put the sensors in silent standby to reduce the amount of radio pollution and increase battery lifetime. If some of the sensors and actuators are connected (e.g. room temperature and heating actuator plus a clock), you could even let it run in autonomous mode (time based heating to a specific temperature) and only need to connect to it if there is a specific need. Such a situation could be that the window sensor detects an open window, so the heating can be turned off. Or maybe the sunlight intensity sensor detects (or the base station estimates) an intensity-rise of the sunlight, so the heating could be reduced in advance.
Something like this would give immediate benefit (in comfort) to those who install it, and in a long-term view it would/could cut the costs down a bit.
I am aware of some wireless sensors/actuators, but they are relatively expensive, the radio pollution (and type) is unknown to me, and the protocol is not open, so I do not know if it is secure and how to improve things I do not like.
Anyone with enough hardware knowledge and open source/hardware spirit out there to produce a modular base for sensors/actuators (bluetooth + I/O for sensros/actuators/pc-connection + controler)?