Saturday, December 8, 2012

Power meter monitoring using Munin & an Arduino

It's been a bit quiet on the blog lately, but that's just because I've been a bit busy with both and other related projects. I've been writing the new aprsc APRS-IS server software together with OH2MQK, went to DCC 2012 in Atlanta to do presentations about both aprsc and, aprsc has been deployed to about 30% of APRS-IS servers and I've had to fix some bugs too. I'll tell you more about those things later – this blog post is about one of the "other projects", a one-nighter to monitor the electric power consumption of your home using an Arduino, a phototransistor, and Munin. I have to admit it took another day to package and document it for you, and write this blog post, and that it can take another night to adjust the physical installation of the sensors.

The Arduino C code, the two Perl scripts used on the Linux box to get the numbers to Munin, and a README text file with more instructions is available on Github. Click on the ZIP button to download it all.

Here's an example diagram drawn by Munin, with annotations for some events we triggered. Munin might not be the best way to collect and report measurements like this, but it's certainly one of the easiest methods to get data graphed on the web using a Linux box. apt-get install munin munin-node and you're ready to go!

The local power company remotely measures power usage in 1-hour steps (using a GSM/3G connection), lets me view that data on their web site (after logging in, of course), and advertises that as being "very accurate" and "high resolution". I don't think it's much to brag about! Munin polls every 5 minutes which makes it really easy to see how much each device or action consumed energy.

Most modern power meters installed by the utility companies have a red LED which blinks according to the power consumption. The meters installed in our small apartment building blink 1000 times per kWh (kilowatthour) – it reads "1000 imp/kWh" next to the led.

To count the blinks you'll need a photodiode or phototransistor. I used an Osram SFH 300 sold by the local electronics store (Partco). It's sensitive to visible light (not just infrared, like some models).

I'm measuring consumption of 4 apartments (with the consent and for the benefit of my neighbors) and the building's consumption (heating system, outdoor & basement lights, etc), so I attached 5 phototransistors.

I used an Arduino Duemilanove, but it's current replacement model Arduino Uno or just about any other model will work just fine.

The Atmel microcontroller has internal pull-up resistors, so the phototransistors can be connected directly to the board without any other components. The Uno board costs about 20€ or $25 USD, has USB and a good set of analog and digital I/O pins. It's powered by USB – no wall wart required.

It's very easy to program in C using the Arduino IDE, which comes with plenty of simple example code. If you're a programmer with no electronics experience, or an electronics guy with no programming experience, or something in between, you'll love the Arduino.

Here's the box attached to the wall using 3M Dual Lock tape.

Since we measure the blinks using optical coupling – there is no electrical connection between the meter and the photodiodes – installing the instrumentation is completely safe and legal. It's about as safe as taking photos of the meter, which is very safe indeed.

With the small bias voltage given by Arduino's internal pull-ups, the photodiodes are a bit insensitive, so they need to be aligned very closely and sharply at the blinking red led of the meter.

Remember that it might not be wise to publish real-time measurement data on the Internet, since everyone could see when you're home. But that applies to APRS on your car, too.

My meter actually has two blinking leds. The one on the left is for kiloVoltAmpsReactivehours (kvarh), which indicates phase-lagged power consumed by an inductive load. My power company isn't yet charging me for that separately, so I'm not measuring it.

1 comment:

OH1KH said...

Just got similar device from my friend. He got it as a gift when he ordered some magazine.
Difference is that it only has its own memory where kWh count is stored. It also calculates the cost of used kWhs.
No nice graphs.
But maybe I use the sensor for Arduino! After they first bring new kWh meter to replace mechanical meter now in use.

Well Arduino is nice. I have several of them in use at house.
Next you have to add some temperature sensors inside and outside to see how temperatures effect to amount of used electricity.
After that you may start to think how you can capture light reflection from water meter's "propeller" that spins in the middle of mechanical meter.
And still you have many inputs of Arduino free.
Maybe humidity, LDR to analog input to capture outside light level, wind speed and direction...
And still there is unused power on Arduino... endless project.

My latest innovation is chrstmas lights.
4 red DIY lasers and servo motor from Arduino blinks lasers randomly and turns them up and down with servo motor.
Box must be at least 3m height so that no one will look to lasers.
And where are they pointing to?
To my 24m antenna tower. I have now up/down (between 12m to 24m) running christmas lights without climbing to tower!