Sharing my carbon footprint

You may have noticed there are some new graphs on the right sidebar of this blog. You can now get live updates on my home electricity use and my carbon footprint (well my electricity-related carbon footprint anyway). Things have clearly moved on since I first got my Current Cost device in November and became part of the Act on CO2 campaign. I’ve been steadily reporting back my energy use to the PR company employed to manage the campaign but realise that for the data to have any impact on my behaviour I should be forced to look at the data everyday.

Actually I think I’m losing the plot on the whole saving energy thing and have become way more interested in the data-mashing/amateur electronics end of things. In particular I’ve become interested in getting objects (in my case an energy meter) to blog/tweet on their own. My house needs to tweet to remind me to be a more careful user of energy – that’s where I want to end up.

We’re not quite at the stage of seeing @daveshouse on Twitter yet but we do have nice graphs. These come courtesy of Pachube: “a service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world”. Pachube are beta-testing at the moment so you’ll need an invite code to use their service (sign-up details here). On their applications page they have an app to connect the Current Cost meter to your computer. This allows your meter to output information to a feed. I’ve created another feed for my carbon footprint using another Pachube app and finally, the wonderfully titled Pachublogject (which is also still in beta – many thanks for allowing me to test) spat out some code for a widget.

And that’s the widegets you see in the sidebar. I could add another for temperature in my living room but will resist for now. It’s live energy use you are seeing and it changes, according to use, every 15 seconds or so. The carbon footprint bit recalculates based on the previous 24 hours energy use. Where the graph shows a flat line that isn’t always because there’s noone in the house – more likely it’s because the laptop the meter is plugged into is switched off. And that’s where the flaw is in this for me – I don’t have an always-on machine at home that the meter can feed into. So the next thing I need to do probably involves me connecting the meter to an Arduino and then direct to a port on my router. That will involve some programming or something like that – beyond my technical expertise currently although I’m learning stuff pretty rapidly on this project. From there we’re only a short step away from twitter. Bring it on!

12 thoughts on “Sharing my carbon footprint

  1. Colour me green. As in just a little bit envious of cool gadgets and information producing widgets.

    I’m curious as whether you can identify optimal ways of heating a house so that it requires the least amount of input to maintain a steady temperature (or range or temperatures). It would also be interesting to see whether step changes up and down in electricity consumption have any side effects.

  2. You probably think I live on some quiet cul-de-sac at the end of a long drive? So giving the blog-reading burglar the perfect opportunity? Actually, anyone can tell when I’m not home by peering through my front window on what is a fairly busy street of terraced houses.

    In fact the consumption pattern turns out to be no different if someone is in the house during the day. It does if it’s a weekend daytime with lots happening and the washing machine on but on a ‘working from home’ day (at least a couple this week between us) the line is the same as when no-one is here.

    You’re right to make the security point though – it could be a barrier to sharing this kind of info.

  3. that thought crossed my mind too – but I dismissed it like this: anyone with a house wired to talk to the internets is also likely to have internal webcam monitors and some sort of infra-red, wi-fi sensing device that turns on the lights and monitors a person’s progress in and around the house, while broadcasting t it to all and sundry. You think I’d go up to the window for a peek? NFW!

  4. Hi Dave,

    I found your site via the Pachube map, while looking for other feeds in the Birmingham area (I live in Erdington). I considered the security issue too, but like DP said, I’ve got a motion-sensing webcam set up as well as a burgler alarm 😉 I haven’t set up the “monitoring progress around the house” yet, but I’m working on it. I’ve also set my electricity usage on up twitter (@gazbot). Since starting to monitor my usage I’ve cut it down quite a bit!

    If you want help setting up a standalone version I’d be happy to help! I’ve ordered (but not yet received) an Arduino kit so I can start experimenting with that. An alternative solution (which I currently use) is connecting the CurrentCost unit to a Linksys NSLU with USB Flash Drive attached. Drop me a line, if you like.


  5. Dave this is such a good idea… Has the Current Cost meter stop you from doing anything?? For example – logging onto Twitter! Ha.

    The graphs are definitely a good idea – and it looks like you’ve encourage others to link them up.

    Is the campaign ongoing? And are you in touch with any of the other Birmingham campaigners??

    I’m currently involved in an environmental website ( and would love some feedback on our carbon related articles. I’ve taken some advice from the Act on CO2 website, but would like to know you’re thoughts on how well it works and how much you actually save..


  6. Actually Georgie I’ve probably become too interested in the technology and not nearly interested enough in the saving of energy. Looking at my most recent energy bills I’m not sure I’ve saved anything at all!

  7. Oh dear.. perhaps it’s time to read up on some more energy saving tips.

    Is the Current Cost meter not in a dominant place at home? Or maybe your absence from Twitter has meant you’re not near your computer as much… haha.

  8. The meter is in the living room but usually not connected to the computer. Am trying to pull the info from it direct to the network router so I don;t have to have it plugged in to the computer at all. That way I can be more sophisticated about graphing energy use and try to see if I can’t develop a more efficient use of energy over the longer term.

  9. Ah yes remember you saying about that… live updates on Twitter?

    Would you plan to have them hourly, daily or even weekly??

    Would you be interested in taking part in a 15min pod cast I’m doing on energy saving??

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