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October 01, 2009

Ignorance is Bliss... How Knowing Too Much Can Ruin Your Day

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Don't watch your power meter to closely... you may lose sleep!

My name is Rick Zarr and I am a geek.  OK, I’ve said it publically for the record.  I get excited over reading articles on quantum well transistors and photonic lattice light emitting diodes.  Yes, I live to learn about technology and how it can be employed to improve our lives. Most of all... I like to build things - always have and always will. I have a "home project" worksheet that looks more like a broker’s stock trading analysis complete with Gant charts and status updates. I am a consummate data collector and home automation enthusiast - much to the dismay of my wonderful, loving wife who tolerates all the lights going out at the press of an incorrect button... but I digress. Information is power over your environment and it helps immensely with decision making processes - most of the time...

I so much love to instrument things, that over the past nine years I have been equipping our home with sensors, custom software and automation to know exactly what’s going on.  My goal was to improve our "living" efficiency as if our house were some giant manufacturing machine kicking out sneakers or soda bottles.  I will admit it is a work in process... engineer’s minds never sleep and we are always coming up with new ways to solve problems or improve processes.  So goes my "smart" house - which should be more aptly referred to as a "modestly clever" house with SLD.

I am usually intelligent in my decision processes, so when I started this project I learned that knowing the truth can sometimes be less favorable then simply being ignorant to the topic.  The power consumption of our house is a classic example.  Now, I knew I was a large consumer of energy. I write about the topic all the time and I’m painfully aware of the "average" consumption in America. I was on a mission to find where every milliwatt was going...

My quest started me on a crazed path to rid our home of energy waste... this lasted about 10 minutes until I realized that the rest of the family wasn’t buying into it.  It’s much easier to say, "Would you mind turning off the TV when you’re done watching America’s Next Top Model" as apposed to "Here’s a detailed report of the family’s energy consumption for the last week - we have a consumption goal of Y, and your quota is X so please adjust your life-style accordingly"... my daughters would simply laugh.

Following my rant I was lovingly banished to my home office.  I sat at my computer and watched the machine in action - lights going on here and there, air conditioners cycling on and off, pumps starting and stopping and realized that to make this type of thing work, my family (including me) needed to be out of the equation.

I am now working on adding rules to the system that (here’s a stretch) "learn" what we’re doing and adjust the house accordingly.  For example, if the thermostat in the bonus room is set to 75°F and there’s no one moving around, the TV is off or worse, the security alarm is set in "away" mode, then it’s probably safe to set the thermostat back to 85°F until someone changes it (or someone enters the room).  There are many other examples, which made me realize that I just added another item to my long list of things to build... this is going to take awhile.  Until next time...


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For all energy Geeks... One of the best results for Energy Management is Voltage Optimisation.

James Salisbury

Are you sure you have got the set back temprature correct, compare with the normal temprature,

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