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!
Well today was a bit of a frenzy. The Act on CO2 People Power campaign was launched and I found myself being wheeled in front of the media for most of the day.
It started gently with an interview down the phone with Radio WM’s Phil Upton. He even left a comment on my Facebook wall afterwards – nice touch.
Then at 10.30am a government minister turned up. Along with her press assistant, three people from the PR company, two people from the Energy Savings Trust (one in a lovely white lab coat) and a photographer. Phew – it was busy.
Then the BBC arrived at 4.30pm and spent about an hour and a half shooting a sequence that may appear on your TV sometime in December or January. I got the idea that this was a story that gets slotted into the news agenda when other stuff doesn’t crowd it out. This time there were two Beeb people, the same three PR people (who helped with mine and the kids’ tea – ta) and one of the energy saving guys. This involved an interview and plenty of shots of the family using energy. You can see that in the picture above – there’s the youngest watching telly, let’s hope she doesn’t leave it on standby after she’s finished. As an aside, if the kitchen scenes ever make it to air then the kids aren’t usually fed pizza and Maltesers. It was what I had to hand to keep them quiet as the camera rolled.
Overall a busy but quite enjoyable day. Now I have to get on with the actual campaign thing itself which involves keeping a diary of my energy use. More on that as it progresses. Some nice playing with the Current Cost device in the meantime as well (which impressed the PR & energy people). Got some graphs going on (and better ones to follow):
I now have one of these, a Current Cost thingy that measures how much electricity I’m wasting every time I forget to turn the lights off in the kitchen. It was sent to me as part of my impending positioning as some kind of ambassador for the government’s Act on CO2 campaign (that’ll teach me to respond so quickly to internal council circulars last thing on a Friday). More on that after the campaign goes live on Thursday but in the meantime I’m enjoying watching how the Current Cost device freaks out as I switch on the kettle, the tumble dryer and the dishwasher at the same time – those kilowatts go wild!
The device has a serial port on the bottom and I would love to share my usage stats with the world. However this involves some technical geekery which may well be beyond my knowledge. Just extracting the data from the machine looks complex. It’s either a DIY job or I think I just buy a specialist cable.
Once I have the data I’d like to translate it into some simple charts that could sit on the sidebar of this blog. Some have used the Google Charts API. If I can work out what I’m doing, I’ll do the same.