It has always been a goal of mine to have a ‘smart house’. In my old townhouse, I knew we were going to be moving so I did not take the time to install any of the neat equipment that I’ve been reading about. After purchasing a new home last year, I began researching in earnest – trying to figure out what makes the most sense from a usability and price conscious standpoint.
As a first step I knew I was going to go with Z-Wave. I’ll be going in-depth about this technology at a later date; but for now let’s just say it is a fairly open protocol for creating ‘smart’ devices that communicate with each other. You start off with a Z-wave controller, I ended up purchasing the Aeon Labs DSA02203-ZWUS Z-Wave Z-Stick Series 2 USB Dongle. This allows you to interface your computer with your Z-Wave network. There are many pieces of software that work with this device. I will review some of them at a later time.
There was a great deal on the Aeon Labs Smart Energy Meter (Amazon link) for only $30 (US) where the “2nd Generation” version was $90. I thought this would be a great time to jump in and get started with making my house “smart”.
Installing The HEM
Watch the video below for my explanation on how to install the Home Energy Meter (HEM).
If you are not familiar with working with electricity, I would definitely recommend that you hire an electrician to perform this part. For an electrician this install would be very easy and shouldn’t be that expensive.
Essentially, you turn off your main power; install the meter leads around the 2 feeds coming in (if you have 2 phase power, you may also have 3 phase power and need a different unit for that); and then route the two leads out of the panel and into the HEM.
Pairing The HEM To Your Z-Wave Network
To pair the HEM to your Z-Wave network, follow the instructions on your controller. On the HEM you must have the batteries installed for it to pair properly. This threw me at first, since I thought when I plugged USB into the outlet that would be everything it needs. After installing batteries, press the button in the battery compartment to begin the pair process. I then pressed the button on the Z-Wave Stick and it paired without problems.
Next up, you need to add it to your Z-Wave controller software. Depending on what system you have this will be a different process for everyone. For me, this took the most amount of time to configure properly. I ended up using software named Domoticz which runs on an Ubuntu server I already use for serving up media files on my home network and is powered 24/7.
Here are some links with instructions on how to set up on different Z-Wave compatible controllers.
Getting Accurate Results
After getting my controller to recognize the HEM, it was reporting Wattage way higher than I knew my home was using; around 800,000 Watts.
There is a long discussion of this issue on the MiCasaVerde forums. It seemed that I had to do two things to get my meter reporting properly.
The first was to downgrade the firmware. I started off before installing by updating my firmware to the latest version (3.67 at this moment), both on my Z-Wave stick and also the HEM. After reading those forum posts, one user reported downgrading to 3.61 and that solved his issue. I installed HEM firmware version 3.61.
I also had to modify the settings field. I changed “Group 1 Reports” to 12; this is a decimal representation of a binary value which essentially says for it to report Wattage and kWh. I also changed it to report every 10 seconds instead of every 900 seconds. This makes for much nicer data collection.
After getting it all set up and reporting properly, the Aeon Labs Home Energy Meter seems to be working very well. The values are about accurate for my energy usage and I can see current usage at any point in time, as well as the past values. That even includes kWh used per day. With this data, I can reliably say what are the real energy users in my home and proactively fix energy drains before I get hit with high energy bills.
I would highly recommend this energy meter for anyone who is looking to get into the Z-Wave technology and wishes to monitor their whole house energy usage. For a fairly low price (under $75) I was able to start graphing my energy usage.
I would love to hear your experiences getting this set up and what controller you used!