Monitoring your power usage beyond the basic smart meter capabilities offered by your utility company can be difficult. After all, inductive pickups need to be installed on key power feeds to get an accurate assessment of real time usage and demands. Energy Inc. has come up with a clever solution that is not only easy to install (for qualified electricians), but provides a great way to track your power usage using your home computer or through a (wired or wireless) display.
Energy Inc. sent us the TED (The Energy Detective) Pro Home system ($299.95) that consists of an MTU (Measuring Transmitting Unit) with a set of 200A (CT601B) CT's (current transformers), an ECC (Energy Control Center), and Power & Data Cables. Optional equipment that is available (i.e. Additional MTU's, CT's, TED Spyder, Display, etc.) will also be covered in the review.
Warning: This installation should only be performed by a qualified electrician. Failure to do so may result in death or injury. We take no responsibility for the proper installation of this system (See instructions provided by Energy Inc.).
Our house has a 2-phase (240V) power feed from the utility company (Southern California Edison). TED is also capable of monitoring 3-phase power, but you will need to get the correct product for this.
We were most interested in monitoring the main (240V) power feed and our solar generation feed. We used one MTU to monitor the main power coming from the utility by connecting the 200A CT's around the cables feeding our power panel. These CT's have split cores with a large opening, easily allowing them to be clamped around the existing power cabling. There is a red dot that should point in the direction of the utility power. The two installed CT's connect to ports A & B on the MTU. An MTU power cable is provided that connects to one of the phases in the breaker panel. This cable not only powers the MTU, but also provides the PLC interface (powerline communications modulated over the powerlines) to communicate with the ECC that is installed in the house. The two indicators on the MTU provide status on the communications (link and send/receive) with the ECC. We then installed a second MTU on the solar generation feed. Each of these are monitored and plotted individually using the software.
TED Pro Spyder
Expanding the number of circuits being monitored is made easy with the TED Pro Spyder. This low voltage device is designed to accept up to 8 CT's per unit. The Spyder (using the SPY IN interface) connects directly to the MTU (through a special connector) via the cable provided. There are two connectors on the Spyder (SPY IN / SPY OUT) that allow users to daisy chain an additional Spyder (2 total) increasing the total number of circuits that can be monitored. We had both 20A and 60A CT's to connect to the Spyder for our testing. These lower current CT's are solid core (not split), so it will require the user to insert the "hot" wire through the CT before connecting it to the breaker. There are also 200A split core (slightly larger) and 200A solid core CT's available. (See Spyder packages offered below).
Dealing With Noise
While the new TED Pro Home provides a more robust PLC (powerline communications) interface (to the MTU's) than the earlier models, the system can still become susceptible to noise from other electronics devices that couple into the powerlines. Under extreme conditions, these conducted emissions can cause communication problems that affect the reliability of the data collected from the MTU's. Conversely, TED can also be the aggressor and may cause interference on other PLC devices such as X10 and more importantly our solar (Enphase) microinverters. We experienced this first hand once we installed the system. Fortunately, Energy Inc. understands the practical issues of this installation and offers a relatively simple solution that works. This solution involves a filter that is designed to isolate PLC data and/or block noise. (NOTE: There were no communication issues between the TED devices in the system I tested, it communicated immediately out of the box. TED reports that Enphase are the only inverters reported to be susceptible to interference from the TED PLC signal. In a residential environment, the one known example where a filter is recommended for communication between the TED equipment would be to use a plug-in filter on a UPS battery backup if it is to be used on the same circuit as the ECC device.)
Initially when we installed TED Pro Home in our house, we began to see erratic behavior with the solar data being reported from the Enphase Envoy gateway device. The Envoy is responsible for communicating with each of our 29 Enphase microinverters installed on the roof under each solar panel. The symptoms varied and were a combination of unreliable readings to a complete loss of communications from the microinverters as being reported by the Envoy. In addition, some of our X10 devices that normally control outdoor lighting appeared to have stopped working in certain parts of the house.
After speaking with Andy Martin (one of Energy Inc's. engineers), we quickly identified a solution which requires a filter. Since these noise issues are well understood, it is fairly easy to resolve. Not everybody will need filters, but if you do there are specific ones available at a reasonable cost.
There are two filters available, each addressing different issues. The in-line filter is designed to isolate the PLC communications between the MTU's and the ECC and block this interference from getting onto other devices, while the plug-in filter prevents noisy devices from interfering with the operation of TED. For our issue, we needed the in-line filter to prevent TED from causing interference with our solar data and X10 controller. Luckily, we have enough room in our power panel for the in-line filter. We now enjoy the TED Pro Home system without any issues on our other PLC devices.
The In-Line filter ($18) is designed to be installed in the power panel (as shown above) and is used to improve the powerline carrier signal. The filter essentially blocks out electrical "noise" from the rest of the panel and improves communication between the measuring units (MTU's) in the breaker panel and the Gateway. When using the inline filter, all MTU's must be powered from the filter and attached to the breaker that is connected to the ECC in the house. This creates a communications island between the MTU's and the ECC, thereby isolating the PLC noise (reducing conducted emissions) to other devices on the main breaker panel.
The TED Plug-in noise filters ($13) are used to eliminate electrical line-noise produced by an appliance/device that interferes with TED's communication. By plugging a noisy device into the noise filter, the noise is eliminated from the powerline that would otherwise cause communication problems. When properly installed, the plug-in filter will isolate the noise generating equipment from the Gateway and the circuit feeding the Gateway. The device is simple to install (simply plug it in) when compared to the in-line filter. Many of these noise filters can be installed in different locations of the house if more than one appliance/device is causing noise problems. If the in-line filter has already addressed the noise issue and another noisy device is not directly connected to the same power feed, then it is likely that you will not need the plug-in noise filter simply because the MTU/ECC link is already isolated.
The web-based Footprints software is accessed by entering in the IP address of the TED ECC or by simply entering in "http://ted6000" into the web browser. No software needs to be installed on the computer to run this interface and we successfully tested it on both a Windows-based laptop and a MacBook Air with no problems.
The LIVE DASHBOARD shows daily, monthly, and projected kWh usage. The user can select the real time meter in the upper center of the screen to display Net, Generated, or Load power in kWh, cost, or pounds of CO2. The software will automatically calculate the LOAD power from the MTU's collecting NET (utility) and GENERATED (solar) power. Power factor (the ratio of true power to apparent power) is also displayed on this panel and is an important part of monitoring power.
The HISTORY panel provides hourly, daily, and monthly data for net power, generated power or load power. Users can select any of their installed MTU's and if applicable, the associated Spyder CT's monitoring other power feeds. Cost information is also displayed for reference. For those interested in post processing the captured data, the Export tab in the menu can be used to export (csv) data in resolution of seconds, minutes, hours, days, or months. This gave me a level of detail on my solar production that I never had before.
The GRAPHING panel provides Second Live View (30 seconds to an hour), Minute Live View (30 minutes to 48 hours), Hour View (7 days max), Day View (90 days max), and Month View (3 months to 10 years) for plotting power, cost, and voltage. Each plot can be turned on or off and are color coded. Colors can be changed by the user by simply clicking on the color and selecting from the color palette. The real time modes are cool to watch when we want to see the effects of various power consuming devices in the house. For example, turning on the microwave or your refrigerator turning on will significantly increase power consumption. In addition, the solar generation will vary significantly as clouds pass in front of the sun during peak hours as can be seen on the plots.
The SPYDER tab lists all of the devices defined in the Spyder Settings (System Settings) panel. Data can be displayed in kW or cost. In some cases, multiple feeds may be combined to display an accurate account of the power consumption by a given device. For example, your HVAC system may have the fan and the compressor on different feeds. These two feeds can have separate CT monitors connected to the Spyder, yet the software can add them together for you as defined in the circuit matrix. Polarity and gain levels can also be applied to these monitors. This may be necessary when only monitoring one leg of a balanced 240V appliance. The software can calculate the total power by assuming the second phase has the (same) return current.
The optional wired display, which is connected to the ECC, is a handy device that provides up to date power information at a glance. The display can be configured to cycle through information at intervals (default 5 seconds) defined by the user. The display has a back light that makes it easy to read in all lighting conditions. Pressing the illuminated front button cycles through the 3 display modes (Real-Time Use, Month to Date, and Solar-Wind Generation). The Real-Time Use mode (my favorite) displays cost per hour along with the current load power. The Month to Date mode displays the total cost and kWh based on the billing period. The Solar-Wind Generation mode provides both the power being generated and the load power with cost associated with each. The wired display has a base that fits on the top of the ECC. While this is an optional accessory, it is nice to see instant data without the need to run a computer.
The TED Pro Home system provides users with a sophisticated power management tool that makes it easy to figure out power usage. The two key areas that most people want to see is the utility feed (Net) and the Solar feed (Generation). TED clearly makes this simple and does the math for you to figure out the load your house is putting on the electrical system. The Spyder takes it to a whole new level by allowing you to monitor individual feeds to the house. The embedded Footprints software is accessed through your web browser, so there is no need to install anything on your computer to access your data.
The TED Pro Home system starts at a very reasonable $299.95 and can be easily expanded to include an additional MTU with 200A CT's ($149.95), a wired display ($69) or wireless display (149.95). Various Pro Spyder packages are also available ($149.95-$299.95) with different CT's (20A/60A/200A). The great part is you can start simple and expand your system as needed. Most will find the capabilities of the TED Pro Home more than they could ask for and that's why I would highly recommend this product for those like me who want to have a complete assessment of their power usage.