Smart Meters… where it’s at

Here’s a pleasing article from the New York Times about “smart-metering” in English homes.  Basically smart meters are power meters that give nearly live numbers on your home energy use, so if you install them in a public part of the house you can really respond to the numbers as feedback.  Furthermore, the ones described in the article actually beep when you get over a certain power level in the house.

I’ve been wanting to design and install something like this for years and years… perhaps it’s time to try the off-the-shelf solution.  Of course to install such a meter I believe I would need to mess with the electric panel (basically replace the panel), or to install a meter at every power point in the house so that they can communicate with a central hub.  Since I don’t own the house, this may be challenging.

I need to look into options in NYC and report back.  My house is wind-powered but I have very little idea of how much power we use.  The monthly numbers provided on the Con Ed bill are much too stale, of course, to relate to anything.

Finally, a note on privacy/politics: like most new communication technologies, smart meters introduce the possibility of remote monitoring and all kinds of invasive enforcement possibilities.  E.g. what if you were not allowed to tamper with the meter, and its alarm would go off whenever you went over 500W?  Obviously it’s much better for the privacy of citizens if governments allow power prices to go up relatively ‘naturally’ (i.e. driven by the market) rather than to mandate caps on individual power use.  I can’t think of a much more totalitarian form of control than to actually put hard limits on how much power an individual is allowed to use.  But then again, if global warming takes us to the desperate fruit-flies-in-a-jar moment I think many of us fear, then this kind of control will become essential.

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