Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Metering The Smart Meter, part: the first

A subcontractor of the local electric company was banging around behind my house the other day installing a smart meter. Someday the electric company might produce a web page where I can go to look at my electric usage, but it seems that most or all of the models being rolled out in the US provide an IR led on them that pulses with each interval of electric usage. So you can count them in any given time period to measure usage and measure the time between them for an instantaneous load measurement. There are many ways to measure power load, XTension supports 2 different clamp on current meters that need to be installed inside your breaker panel but if you’re not comfortable working inside your panel or if you don’t wish to hire an electrician to do the work then you’re out of luck. As time goes on though these meters are being rolled out to practically everybody and DIY reading of these pulses doesn’t look like it’s going to be that bad.

This is just proof of concept that I know how to read them, not yet a finished project. Just flashing an LED on the sensor when I receive a pulse with an old Arduino and an IR remote receiver from SparkFun.com.



There are many other similar projects out there you can google for and some good arduino source code examples. Ultimately this will get connected to an xBee for data transmission up to XTension. The next step will be some kind of bracket/case to hold the sensor against the electric meter without looking too frightening to any meter reader that may be back out at any time in the future.

I’m pretty sure that someone will be back out, the meter isn’t really installed straight, I dont know why it should be bent up ever so slightly,but it doesn’t give me great confidence that the connections are solid inside.  I”m going to call the electric company and ask them to verify the install later on today as a matter of fact.

(part 2: making the sensor)

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