A few weeks ago over on the Power Management DesignLine, a sister site to Digital Home, I posted an article about the power wasted by consumer electronics and DC converters. I can hardly count the DC converters in the house that charge all types of products from cell phones to garden tools. And of course TVs, radios, and the like are never really powered off these days -- sometimes called vampire power. Just after I wrote that article, I saw a promo for the Black & Decker Energy Monitor. The $100 product allows consumers to monitor the power used by all types of products in the digital home. We all know air conditioners use a lot of power, but how much power does that sleeping printer waste?
Yesterday I installed one of the Black & Decker monitors. The product includes a sensor unit that you mount directly to your power meter. The sensor connects wirelessly to a remote display/control unit that lets you monitor power consumption in real time. I haven't had enough time to fill explore the feature set, but you can even input energy rates and get a dollar figure for the power that you are consuming.
The sensor unit works with most power meters according to the company. My meter is the traditional mechanical model with a spinning wheel. The sensor includes an LED and photo detector that spots the small black area on the edge of the wheel each time it rotates. The sensor can also work with some digital power meters that include optoelectronic ports. The sensor is rather light duty in design. It will be interesting to see how well the sensor stays aligned on my meter.
In a perfect digital world, we wouldn't need the remote unit. Our power meter would integrate Zigbee or some other communication link for home automation purposes. Alas most of us don't have that capability just yet.
I'll report back in the coming weeks on my experience with the power monitor. I'll also take the unit apart at some point and see what's inside and what kind of wireless link connects the sensor and display. Stay tuned.