Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product

Jon HallamJon Hallam Registered Users Posts: 5
Hi NAWS,

My company is working on a product that can monitor the energy consumption of a home, as well as the generation of a solar array, and I was hoping to get some feedback from the community before the features get locked down. Big thanks to The Powers That Be at NAWS for allowing me to post.

The quick description of the product is as such:
  • Little black box that installs inside your breaker panel. Uses 4 current transformers (CTs) to individually monitor the net flow of energy to/from the grid, and from the array.
  • Compatible with split-phase 120/240V 60Hz or 220-240V 50Hz service. Up to 200A per CT. Accurate to within 1%.
  • Uses Zigbee of WiFi to transmit that data to a cloud service (there are two versions of the sensor).
  • The cloud service shows you your consumption/generation in real time, as well as logging historical data. A mobile app is also in development.
  • It also includes a "load disaggregation" algorithm, which uses pattern matching to break down your energy consumption by appliance/use (ie $40 this month on heating, etc).
  • The Zigbee version is already safety certified by TUV so it can be installed to electrical code. The WiFi version is still under development.

Here are a few screen shots of the web portal interface to give you a better idea of what we can do right now:
Attachment not found.
This shows the real-time monitoring of your home/array on the left hand side. This is always visible. In the main section of the page we have the graph of consumption/generation for the last 24h. Weather information is overlayed, which helps explain variations in solar generation.

Attachment not found.
This shows our load disaggregation algorithm at work. You can see a weekly-view of energy consumed up top, and then how that energy was broken down by appliance in the pie-chart below.

Attachment not found.
This shows historical consumption/generation by day for the past month. Weather information is overlayed to help explain the value for any given day. For instance, a sunny day might result in high generation, but also high consumption due to air conditioning.

So, without getting into a ridiculous amount of detail that's the product. If you guys could take a few minutes to review and consider the features and give me some feedback, I'd really appreciate it. A few examples of the questions I'm trying to answer:

1. Do you monitor your array's generation right now? If so, how?

2. What features of your generation monitor do you use often? What features do you wish it had?

3. Do you monitor your home's consumption right now? If not, are you interested in adding consumption monitoring, and why?

4. Once your array is installed and working, when do you interact with it? What's the most important thing about it that you need to know?

Thanks for your time guys! I want to make sure this product can serve the solar enthusiast community well, so I appreciate your feedback.

Comments

  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,913 ✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product

    Pattern matching is an interesting idea. Do you have to train it with your appliances, or does it recognize patterns common to all appliances of particular kind? With today's appliances this might be difficult.
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    1. Do you monitor your array's generation right now? If so, how?

    Yes. I have charge controllers and also my own device.
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    2. What features of your generation monitor do you use often? What features do you wish it had?

    The generation is naturally limited by the amount of energy that is taken. It would be nice to measure how much energy is available, but not taken. This would help to schedule opportunity loads, and also to make an informed decision about installing (or not installing) additional arrays.
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    3. Do you monitor your home's consumption right now? If not, are you interested in adding consumption monitoring, and why?

    Yes, I have an hourly log. Once it collects enough data, I plan on analysing it to see if I need to shift some loads.
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    4. Once your array is installed and working, when do you interact with it? What's the most important thing about it that you need to know?

    My biggest interaction is cleaning off the snow.

    It would be nice to know right away if a single panel (or even a single bypass diode) in the array fails, so I could work on replacing/repairing it.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,395 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    1. Do you monitor your array's generation right now? If so, how?
    Yes a TED
    2. What features of your generation monitor do you use often? What features do you wish it had?
    I often use the graphing section and the base page which is pretty feature rich. I seldom/never use the Load Profiling, Mostly cause it doesn't work very well. It options to program various TOU parameters in with more tier, time and date functions. For instance the TED has no concept of a TOU that holds the bank within the TOU and can't carry the kWh or $$$ over to other TOU time frames. Its concept of TOU is way to simplistic.
    3. Do you monitor your home's consumption right now? If not, are you interested in adding consumption monitoring, and why?
    Yes I do and have the consumption broken down into 3 components, main house, new office/shop building, EV charging stations plus the solar generation.
    4. Once your array is installed and working, when do you interact with it? What's the most important thing about it that you need to know?
    With grid-tie mostly just that it is working.
    Thanks for your time guys! I want to make sure this product can serve the solar enthusiast community well, so I appreciate your feedback.
  • MikeSusMikeSus Solar Expert Posts: 64 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    Jon Hallam wrote: »

    Thanks for your time guys! I want to make sure this product can serve the solar enthusiast community well, so I appreciate your feedback.

    So are you looking for beta testers?
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,395 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    MikeSus wrote: »
    So are you looking for beta testers?

    I might be will to do some thing like that as well running it in parallel with my TED.
  • Jon HallamJon Hallam Registered Users Posts: 5
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product

    Hey Guys,

    Apologies for taking so long to reply. I've had this tab open for a couple weeks, and just haven't been able to get the time to write a decent reply. Such is life in a small company.

    If you're interested in beta-testing, please send me an email. We're a little short on hardware right now, but once we get more in stock I'd like to get some live solar sites online.

    The other way you could get the system is by backing our Kickstarter Campaign for the WiFi version of the product. Its very nearly complete (ends Friday at 5AM PST) but offers the system at a pretty heavy discount from the retail price. We expect to deliver in June 2014. This Kickstarter Campaign is the reason I wasn't able to respond to you guys for so long. It's been exciting to be part of a successful campaign, but absolutely exhausting to manage.

    Thanks for the time to answer my questions. I'll respond to each of you individually as well.

    Cheers,

    Jon
  • Jon HallamJon Hallam Registered Users Posts: 5
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    NorthGuy wrote: »
    Pattern matching is an interesting idea. Do you have to train it with your appliances, or does it recognize patterns common to all appliances of particular kind? With today's appliances this might be difficult.

    Yeah, it's certainly not easy, as we've got a team of data scientists dedicated to the task. The system uses a library of signatures to detect appliances and identify them. It then gives you the ability to "tag" an appliance that it missed or fix incorrect identifications. So, strictly speaking training isn't necessary, but it does help boost the accuracy of the system.
    Yes. I have charge controllers and also my own device.

    What sort of output do you get from them? Is there a web interface, or..?
    The generation is naturally limited by the amount of energy that is taken. It would be nice to measure how much energy is available, but not taken. This would help to schedule opportunity loads, and also to make an informed decision about installing (or not installing) additional arrays.

    Is this because you use an off-grid system, so the energy is only "taken" if it's stored in a battery or used by a load? So far, I've only dealt with grid-tied systems, where all available energy is either consumed in the home, or sold back to the grid. Are there any challenges unique to off-grid systems?
    Yes, I have an hourly log. Once it collects enough data, I plan on analysing it to see if I need to shift some loads
    .

    Interesting. It seems like there's a lot more opportunity for optimization for you, since you're not grid-tied (I assume) and so unused energy is wasted. How do you control loads right now to try to make the most of your solar?
    My biggest interaction is cleaning off the snow.

    Haha, that's good. It's great that most solar arrays are so reliable that people don't need to constantly monitor them. Makes it harder to me to find that "killer app" that really adds value though.
    It would be nice to know right away if a single panel (or even a single bypass diode) in the array fails, so I could work on replacing/repairing it.

    Yeah, this is one area where our solution is at a disadvantage to something built into an inverter. We have lots of smarts the inverter doesn't, but we only see the AC output of the inverter, and can't get access to diagnostic information. So, we might be able to find an error using some amount of statistical analysis (ie, you're generating 15% less power than expected) but it won't be as certain as the inverter's diagnostic information. We may be able to integrate with some inverters though, if they have an open interface and API (modbus, ethernet, SunSpec, etc).

    Thanks NorthGuy!
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product

    HI Jon, you wrote:

    Interesting. It seems like there's a lot more opportunity for optimization for you, since you're not grid-tied (I assume) and so unused energy is wasted.

    we call them Opportunity Loads, when you don't waste that incoming power because your batteries are full...:D

    hth
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • Jon HallamJon Hallam Registered Users Posts: 5
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    solar_dave wrote: »
    Yes a TED

    How do you like it? Did you install it yourself? It installs in a very similar fashion to ours; we just don't use powerline communication, and instead rely on wireless directly from the panel.
    I often use the graphing section and the base page which is pretty feature rich. I seldom/never use the Load Profiling, Mostly cause it doesn't work very well. It options to program various TOU parameters in with more tier, time and date functions. For instance the TED has no concept of a TOU that holds the bank within the TOU and can't carry the kWh or $$$ over to other TOU time frames. Its concept of TOU is way to simplistic.

    What are you looking for when you check the graphing section?

    Pricing schemes can get incredibly complicated. Before this product, we made In Home Displays, which worked with Smart Meters. The combinations of tariffs we had to support (seasonal, time of use, residential inclining block, critical peak, etc) was amazing. I don't know how my firmware guy managed it all. He's going to have to do it all over again for the new product.
    Yes I do and have the consumption broken down into 3 components, main house, new office/shop building, EV charging stations plus the solar generation.

    Nice! Are you using separate TEDs for each of those? What was the motivation for breaking it down by area? Did you notice anything interesting in your usage?
    With grid-tie mostly just that it is working.

    Yeah, I'm hearing that from a lot of Solar owners. It's awesome that the systems are so reliable that you can just install them and forget about it. Do you ever check your generation numbers to see if you're getting what you expect? Is there anything that would inspire you to check your array's status often?

    Thanks solar_dave!
  • Jon HallamJon Hallam Registered Users Posts: 5
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    westbranch wrote: »
    HI Jon, you wrote:

    Interesting. It seems like there's a lot more opportunity for optimization for you, since you're not grid-tied (I assume) and so unused energy is wasted.

    we call them Opportunity Loads, when you don't waste that incoming power because your batteries are full...:D

    hth

    Interesting. Is there a common way to take advantage of these opportunity loads? It seems like you could monitor the state of your batteries, and if they're full, you could automatically turn the hot water heater up, or run a pump or something.
  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product

    Opportunity loads don't only apply to off-grid systems. Some feed in tariffs in other countries like the UK incentivise using power generated from your array rather than selling back to the grid. This has prompted the development of products like the Immersun http://www.immersun.co.uk/ that divert any excess PV power to an electric hot water element. But it only works for resistive loads; I'd imagine it would be useful to be able to turn other devices on or off based on whether there was excess PV power available.

    Some other nice-to-have feature ideas:
    - Comparison with other users e.g. compare PV output with others, compare consumption with others and compare the fraction of consumption that comes from PV.
    - Emphasise the fraction of consumption that comes from PV; perhaps even introduce a scoring system based on PV/Consumption ratio and when the consumption coincides with PV production.
    - Provide energy saving intelligence tips based on the data, e.g. "You appear to run the drier in the morning/evening when solar is not available, consider performing this during the day". Or "your fridge consumes 1 billion MWh/day, this is x% above what modern energy efficient appliances use, switching to an energystar fridge will save $10000/year"
    - Display CO2 savings
    - Include ads from partners for energy saving appliances, e.g. "Consider the SuperEco Fridge from MrMagicFingers which consumes 100Wh/day and will save $1000/year." < These should be clearly marked as sponsored ads ;)
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,395 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    How do you like it? Did you install it yourself? It installs in a very similar fashion to ours; we just don't use powerline communication, and instead rely on wireless directly from the panel.

    I did install it myself, quite difficult to work out the powerline communications. Once it is working it does as advertised except the software on the appliance web server is a bit lame, really needs a better front end. It sends java to the browser to do most of the work.

    What are you looking for when you check the graphing section?
    The solar production is what I would expect and that the loads are inline. Mostly want to know that both inverters are operational. I had a problem in the past where the AC disconnect was not fully engaged and the inverters would not start. Also I see occasionally that the utility is altering the line Voltages and I suspect the frequency as well and they kick the inverters offline. Also it is nice to see when I make a change in conservation what the effect is immediately.
    Pricing schemes can get incredibly complicated. Before this product, we made In Home Displays, which worked with Smart Meters. The combinations of tariffs we had to support (seasonal, time of use, residential inclining block, critical peak, etc) was amazing. I don't know how my firmware guy managed it all. He's going to have to do it all over again for the new product.

    Yeah they are but to compare apples to apples you need to be able to line them up to the TOU plans.
    Nice! Are you using separate TEDs for each of those? What was the motivation for breaking it down by area? Did you notice anything interesting in your usage?

    It is one TED gateway with 4 MTU/CT, one for each measurement. The Solar one is obvious, for loads I really wanted to separate out the EV charging to see how that effected the consumption. For the other 2 it was mostly the easiest way to get the balance of the loads, but it is nice to see the office/shop separately. It can remotely tell me if I left a load on without running out to check it.
    Yeah, I'm hearing that from a lot of Solar owners. It's awesome that the systems are so reliable that you can just install them and forget about it. Do you ever check your generation numbers to see if you're getting what you expect? Is there anything that would inspire you to check your array's status often?

    Thanks solar_dave!

    Yeah I have compared the output to PVWatts predictions and we usually do slightly better than the predictions. I do check my array status at least daily.
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,913 ✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    Yeah, it's certainly not easy, as we've got a team of data scientists dedicated to the task. The system uses a library of signatures to detect appliances and identify them. It then gives you the ability to "tag" an appliance that it missed or fix incorrect identifications. So, strictly speaking training isn't necessary, but it does help boost the accuracy of the system.

    Did you compare to actual pattern? How accurate it is?
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    What sort of output do you get from them? Is there a web interface, or..?

    I just use numbers. I don't need a web interface.
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    Is this because you use an off-grid system, so the energy is only "taken" if it's stored in a battery or used by a load? So far, I've only dealt with grid-tied systems, where all available energy is either consumed in the home, or sold back to the grid. Are there any challenges unique to off-grid systems?

    The cost of the energy in an off-grid system varies a lot. At some points it could be as much as $1/kWh. Other times, it's free. This is sort of like TOU in grid-tie, except it's more complicated because you cannot easily predict in advance when are cheap and expensive periods. The challenge is to run your loads when it's free (or cheap) and avoid running them when it's expensive.
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    Interesting. It seems like there's a lot more opportunity for optimization for you, since you're not grid-tied (I assume) and so unused energy is wasted. How do you control loads right now to try to make the most of your solar?

    Unfortunately, in my particular situation, not many loads can be shifted. Right now I just try to run manual loads (washers, dryers, dishwashers etc.) when it's an aboundance of energy. I'm going to have a LED light on the kitchen which tells me that it's a good time to turn on something. I also will have wireless devices which disconnect big loads when energy is very expensive.
  • RandomJoeRandomJoe Solar Expert Posts: 472 ✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    stephendv wrote: »
    - Include ads from partners for energy saving appliances, e.g. "Consider the SuperEco Fridge from MrMagicFingers which consumes 100Wh/day and will save $1000/year." < These should be clearly marked as sponsored ads ;)

    OH HECK NO!!!! Especially if I'm PAYING for the system, I do NOT want any more stinking ADS thrust in my face! NO WAY, an immediate DEAL BREAKER for me!!!!

    ...ahem...

    'Scuse me... :blush: One of my tender spots, in this ad-infested marketing-saturated world I find myself living in... *sigh*
  • DanS26DanS26 Solar Expert Posts: 253 ✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product

    Jon, if you can do reporting better than PVOutput.org then I'd be willing to look at your product.

    Dan
    23.16kW Kyocera panels; 2 Fronius 7.5kW inverters; Nyle hot water; Steffes ETS; Great Lakes RO; Generac 10kW w/ATS, TED Pro System monitoring with PVOutput.org
  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    RandomJoe wrote: »
    OH HECK NO!!!! Especially if I'm PAYING for the system, I do NOT want any more stinking ADS thrust in my face!

    Hehe, I hear you. Ads would obviously be an option if the service was free for the user. As the old saying goes, "if the service is free, then you're not the customer, you're the thing being sold" :)
  • a0128958a0128958 Solar Expert Posts: 316 ✭✭✭
    Re: Feedback on my consumption/generation monitoring product
    Jon Hallam wrote: »
    Hi NAWS,

    My company is working on a product that can monitor the energy consumption of a home, as well as the generation of a solar array, and I was hoping to get some feedback from the community before the features get locked down.

    ... If you guys could take a few minutes to review and consider the features and give me some feedback, I'd really appreciate it. A few examples of the questions I'm trying to answer:

    1. Do you monitor your array's generation right now? If so, how?

    2. What features of your generation monitor do you use often? What features do you wish it had?

    3. Do you monitor your home's consumption right now? If not, are you interested in adding consumption monitoring, and why?

    4. Once your array is installed and working, when do you interact with it? What's the most important thing about it that you need to know?

    I design, implement and manage development of energy monitoring capabilities, and measurement & verification systems, for residential and commercial settings.

    In response to answering your questions, I have included references to examples to help you and your company think about what you may want to include / not include with your product.

    1. Do you monitor your array’s generation right now? If so, how?

    Yes. Here’s a residential example: http://www.neukranz.com . It includes monitoring of an 8.1 kW batteryless grid-tied solar PV system.

    Online, observable at any Internet connected browser, without requiring any hardware or software installation, and without any monthly fees, it shows a diagram of the system, electric meter instantaneous measurement, outside temp, what’s being consumed, what’s being purchased from the grid, and what’s being produced from the panels, all real time. It also shows a 13 month summary of daily solar production, and compares to what the PVWatts daily estimate is for the month. Likewise on a monthly basis, monthly solar production (kWh) is shown as compared to what PVWatts predicts. Lastly it shows what the system’s efficiency is on a monthly basis.

    Similarly, while still using the Internet and a browser, but not updated real time (done on an ad hoc basis) other charts can easily be produced, for example showing peak power (kW) performance daily, weekly, monthly, annually, etc.

    Lastly, ‘alarms’ can be set if production drops to zero during the day, export to the grid is too high, or any other customizable situation. Alarms are received via text message or email.

    The ‘engine’ for the system is a Web Energy Logger, which exists as an Internet Appliance. It’s an ‘off-the-shelf’ purchasable product, for which sensors are attached, and configuration effort is put forth to produce an example such as the above. Additionally, via the use of common, industry standard graphical editing capabilities, a custom picture can be produced for the real time diagram.

    WEL connection to the Internet is via an Ethernet connection to a router, or a via WiFi, or via a cellular connection.

    Data logging is the third key capability, in addition to real time display on a graphic, and charting. Data logging can be as rapid as once every 60 seconds. All logging goes to an off-site data center. Data is accessible at any time, and downloads in a format already in spreadsheet format (no ‘CSV’ post processing to do). Again, there's no monthly fee for data logging.

    Here’s an example of a commercial setting, using the same monitoring capability, where evaluation and monitoring is being done for big 80 ton air-cooled air conditioning systems: http://www.welserver.com/WEL0640 .

    Measurement of power is done via current transformers connected (wired) to power transducers, using industry standard WattNode units. This all goes into the circuit breaker box, with a CAT 3 cable connection to the WEL for a pulse stream that is at a frequency appropriate for the power level. Resolution increment is 2 watts when using 100 Amp CTs.

    The WEL computes power and energy. And if the appropriate power transducer is selected, the WEL also produces Power Factor and other reactive components, that can be displayed real time, charted and logged.

    Three phase is supported.

    I am familiar with TED-like (and eGauge) PLC communication technique. We don’t use it because it plays havoc at locations that have X10 or UPB devices, and, in some cases it can generally be unreliable.

    2. What features of your generation monitor do you use often? What features do you wish it had?

    If I had more time at my residence, I’d implement insolation measurement to more accurately measure solar PV system efficiency. I’d also implement array string DC current monitoring to better understand shading effects. Both are very doable using the WEL ‘engine’ (purchase and connect a pyrometer, likewise a DC current sensor).

    There aren’t any features that I can think of that I can’t implement – it’s simply a matter of obtaining the appropriate sensor and connecting it.

    3. Do you monitor your home’s consumption right now? If not …

    Yes, I monitor my home’s consumption. See above for example.

    4. Once your array is installed and working, when do you interact with it? What’s the most important thing about it that you need to know?

    I look at my array’s operational numbers a few times per week. I look at my array’s performance numbers a few time each month.

    Key most thing I keep up with is how much of the load can be time-shifted to daily hours . I try to minimize the energy export amount.

    I look at array output and make a mental note to match it up to the weather – i.e. sunny days should provide for strong output.

    Hope this helps.

    Best regards,

    Bill
Sign In or Register to comment.