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DracoFelis 10-23-2006 06:57 PM

Real time power meter

Just had one of these "real time" power meters installed in the house today (I actually purchased the meter a week or two back, but it was only today that the meter's transmitter was wired into our circuit breaker panel). I expect this meter will quickly pay for itself, by helping us to track down which power circuit(s) have higher than expected electrical load, and thereby which ones need "further investigation" as to what is using up "unreasonable" amounts of power. And after identifying/fixing the "power hogs", we can continue to use the meter as a constant feedback tool of the overall electrical power usage/health of the house.

Because, we have really been pretty "blind" up to this point. Yes, we have tried to slowly convert over to energy efficient lighting, energy star TVs, etc, but no matter what we try the power usage doesn't seem to go down much. So clearly we aren't properly identifying the true places the power is going, and so our efforts are little more than a "band aid". But now that we have "instant feedback", we have a tool to investigate further, and see where the true problems lie.

For example, I've already identified one of the culprits (although, sadly not the biggest one). It seems our "sump pump" is a huge "energy pig", using over 500 watts every time it turns on! While we will probably plumb a more energy efficient pump in at some point, for the time being I have simply adjusted the pump to kick on at a higher water level (and therefore kick on much less often). By identifying other hidden "energy pigs", I'm hoping/expecting this meter will quickly make a huge difference in our electric bill (which is something that years of trying to "blindly" improve energy efficiency around the house failed to do)!

BTW: If you were wondering, I learned about this meter from someone who was at one of those recent "solar tours" ( http://www.gassavers.org/showthread.php?t=1903 ). So a big "thank you" to "WisJim" for letting me know about those tours. As it turned out, a geothermal heating contractor was at one of those tours, and I explained our dilemma (we can't find were all the power is going, and not for lack of trying), and that it makes no sense to try big "energy saving" projects until/unless we identify our huge energy losses (and fix them). Thankfully, he had researched various electrical feedback tools, and suggested a "TED meter" as something that should do exactly what we need, specifically both "real time" and cumulative digital readings of power usage across our main house lines (or if the meter is moved, any individual breaker circuit we choose to monitor). And you wouldn't belive how long I've looked for a reasonably inexpensive (about the same cost as a scangauge for the car) tool to monitor such info (and now I have it, thanks to visiting a couple of those "solar homes")!!!

cfg83 10-23-2006 11:36 PM

DracoFelis -


This sounds great! I think I want one for my birthday. But I need to know how it measures RPMs and IAT. Does it support FPR, especially in older homes that may not have a compliant sensor? I already have the tires on my house set to 60 PSI (on ropes attached to trees), so I need some way of extrapolating that efficiency.

One track mind, one track mind, one track mind ... :D


JanGeo 10-24-2006 01:32 AM

yeah pumps suck a lot of power and a small low volume pump should be much more energy efficient. The old fridge if quiet probably is very efficient - its the frost free ones that suck power like crazy they typically have a big heating element in the freezer that cycles on every 5 hours.

DracoFelis 10-25-2006 05:01 PM

FWIW: The TED meter has already helped me get a handle on what is going on!

I had the day off today, so I spent about 2 hours doing some experimenting with the breaker panel today (i.e. turning on/off breakers, and closely watching the TED meter to see what that did to the house power usage). This allowed me to isolated the "big pig" to two power circuits that should both have little use (with only a handful of things plugged into them). What I discovered was that both of these circuits had huge "unexplained" power usage, that tended to fluctuate wildly. I suspect faulty wiring on those two house circuits, but I will investigate further (including individually testing everything that is plugged into either circuit, to see if a faulty appliance was using up the power).

In the very "short term", I have turned off both circuits at the main breaker box. Those two circuits will continue to be "off" (at the breaker box), until I have time to identify what is really using up the power on those circuits. If I can trace this back to something I can identify and deal with (such as fixing a wiring short, or unplugging a faulty appliance), than I'll turn the circuit back on (and monitor to see if the problem reoccurs). However, if after my testing there is still unexplained power usage on those circuits, they will stay off until I have the time/money to pay an electrician to trace all the wiring in them (to see where the power loss is). And those two circuits appear to be "the big boys" of power usage in the house (I have roughly cut the home power usage in 1/2, by just turning off those two power circuits)!

And I'm also getting a handle on some of the other (lessor, but still significant) "power pigs" in the house. As already mentioned, the "sump pump" was a bit of a surprise as to it's total power usage (when on). And, TED seems to be showing that the central air blower (the heat is gas, but the blower is electric) is using around 600 watts every time the blower kicks on. While I know that fans/blowers use energy, I find 600 watts to be a bit high (although we do have a large house). The short-term "fix" for that one, is to make sure the blower isn't on "all the time" (even though it does help circulate/filter the air in the house), but instead only kicks on when the AC and/or heater kicks on). Beyond that, I guess I'll get a quote from some HVAC contractor, as to what upgrading our central air (with more energy efficient blowers) will run, and how much power that would save.

So yes, it takes a little investigation even with the meter. But with the meter, you can get "instant feedback" as to what is happening, and what isn't happening. And that info gives you a real chance to improve things, instead of missing "the real problems" because you don't have instruments to help you find them...

NOTE: I'm just starting to get a handle on things, and no doubt there is a lot of "small fry" (lots of little "vampire" power loads) that can be dealt with at some point (for example, putting power strips in to completely turn off remote TV's/DVDs/etc when not in use). But for the present, I want "the biggest bang for the buck", and the involves dealing with the big power usage first (especially when those "big energy pigs" are hidden and non-obvious).

zpiloto 10-25-2006 06:26 PM

I looked on the web site and it said 200 amp max main breaker for the house. If you have a large house is that your max or did I miss read it?

JanGeo 10-25-2006 06:33 PM

The heater blower sometimes is belt driven and the pully sometimes can be adjusted to slow it down. They have to take some power to move the air and in the winter time it makes some heat that you need so not too much can be done about that. Check for shorts to ground on the circuits that are drawing power for no reason. Underground wiring for the garage or outside wiring?? Water Bed??

DracoFelis 10-25-2006 07:05 PM


Originally Posted by zpiloto
I looked on the web site and it said 200 amp max main breaker for the house. If you have a large house is that your max or did I miss read it?

I see the 200amp limit in my TED's instruction manual as well. However, I think the 200 amp limit is just for the cheapest/smallest TED unit (the one I bought, btw). I think I saw on their web site that they have (or maybe they are coming out with "soon") some bigger "higher current" models available (for a higher price). However, I didn't look closely at that details, because (as big as my house is) I still have only a single 200amp breaker (which is within the limit of the cheapest TED) as my house main.

Of course, even if you had a higher rated breaker, I (personally) can't see where you would have problems unless your load really did peak above 200 amps. And 200 amps at 110v is HUGE (around 22 kilowatts)! Even with my house's power problems, I'm nowhere near that power level (even "peak")...

BTW: The 200 amp limit I think is for the lines/breaker you are measuring, and that doesn't have to be the main if you don't want it to be. So if, for example, your house had two 200amp breaker panels, you could install TED in either of the panels (or get two units, and install one in each panel), instead of installing over the "main".

NOTE: Each TED has a 3-digit transmitter/receiver code associated with it (the transmitter code is preset at the factory, the receiver unit lets you adjust the code to match the transmitter you wish to monitor). So multiple TEDs are (according to their documentation, I haven't tried it as I only have one TED) supposed to be able to co-exist on the same wiring (presumably with the multiple transmitters hooked up to different wiring circuits of your choice), as long as their 3-digit codes are different...

cfg83 10-25-2006 07:23 PM

Ted 5000 connects to PC ...
Hmmmmmm -

This is the one I would like to have, if the price is right :


Originally Posted by The TED Website
Model 5000 – Not available - An enhanced version which will communicate with a PC to allow more sophisticated analysis and graphing of historical data.

I am going to tell my professor about this. I'll bet he will get one.


DracoFelis 10-25-2006 07:26 PM


Originally Posted by JanGeo
Check for shorts to ground on the circuits that are drawing power for no reason.

It will likely be a few days before I'll be able to get any time to get back to this. But the first thing I will try is to disconnect EVERYTHING that is plugged into those circuits, and then see if the problem goes away when the power is (temporarily) restored (I'm not counting on it, but it's a worthwhile test). Because if the problem goes away, than the problem was a malfunctioning appliance (in which case identifying the appliance in question is just a matter of trying them one at a time).

OTOH I'm really not counting on things being "that easy". And shorts to ground is already one thing I've considered. I just don't know how easy it is to test a circuit for a short to ground (is there an "easy" test that can confirm/deny such a problem?). And "visual inspection" is pretty much "out of the question" (as the wiring goes through walls, and who knows where else).

And FWIW there are some even more "bizarre" possibilities. For example, both of those circuits go to a house addition that was made a few years back. And I'm not sure the exact path that it takes, but the wiring might go through the ground before it gets to the house addition. So if some idiot of a contractor mistook our (internal) house wiring for the city mains, they could have run a neighbor's house off of electricity we were already paying for (possible, if a bit of a "long shot", as a lot of nearby construction occurred after our addition, and our "back yard" seemed to be where some of it was hooking into for power...


Originally Posted by JanGeo
Underground wiring for the garage or outside wiring??

Both circuits are on a major addition to the house, that was made a few years back (about a year or two before I got into the picture). And I really don't know if the wiring is fully "within the house", or if it went underground/outside for some of the wiring (although I wouldn't be surprised with the latter, as that part of the house used to be a backyard)! So yes, it is plausible that we have outside wiring that is leaking power to ground. We just don't know yet.

But the important thing IMHO, is that I've now identified a couple of circuits that seem to have "issues". And until I have time to investigate further (and it may be tedious testing all the possibilities one by one), I at least can turn off the "troublesome circuits" at the breaker panel (and thereby save the power loss, and also keep things "safe" against any dangers that might be associated with those circuits)...

JanGeo 10-26-2006 03:14 AM

If you have a clamp on amp meter and go around two wires of the same circuit they cancel the magnetic field they create when they draw current . . . however if there is a short to earth ground the current flow will be unbalanced and you will read a current. Drywall screws into wires in the wall are the typical problem and critters chewing the wires.

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