Counting the current

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.

There seems to be a fair few people at IBM’s Hursley offices who are into fiddling with Current Cost so there’s plenty of guidance on the web about this – they even won a prize for hacking the machine and sharing the data. There’s also a wiki.

Note: I’ll put all the posts about the Act on CO2 campaign and my involvement into their own category (rss feed).

19 thoughts on “Counting the current

  1. Thanks for the link!

    If you decide to get a cable and play with the data that comes out the meter, feel free to give any of us a shout if you run into problems – as you point out, there are a lot of us who’ve been playing with these things

    Enjoy the new paranoia about using too much electricity! 😉

  2. Now that’s the kind of hi-tech gadget I’d like to have for myself. But the £45 for purchase would have to come out of some other already overextended budget.

    I would prefer that energy suppliers made them available at no cost (as they often do with compact fluorescents). As the Current Cost website says: ‘its worth investigating some green tariffs available, not only might you get a free energy monitor, but you may well be offered a better tariff and further incentives.’ It might even be worth reporting.

  3. Thanks for the link. I hadnt seen this before – and it looks interesting in terms of allowing the data to be accessed easily. All other products – EcoEye, Wattson, etc – dont seem to allow data to be output and manipulated in a programme of your choice

    Although I havent yet had a go – this looks an interesting place to output data to:

  4. Pingback: Finally ordered one « Stevieflow

  5. Just arrived in the post – a lead to connect the device to the computer. Much fiddling about and unsuccessful hacking will ensue. I’ll keep you posted!

    Sounds like I’ve inspired at least a couple of you to buy this – I should get myself an affiliate link going on.


  6. The cynic in me is compelled to ask how much energy you need to save to recoup that expended in making the gadget

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  8. Got the device now and I’m using 300 watts with all the devices on standby/charging up. Peak is about 3.5 kw with toaster and kettle on at same time. Don’t those bulbs in the suspended ceilings use some juice ?? about 250 watts per room !!! I can see our house becoming a darkened and frozen cave as the weeks wear on. No more X box for my son , and we’ll be diching the 42 inch TV – or maybe not – what else would I watch those fascinating nature and enviro programmes on – what a dilemma – thanks Dave – are that crew coming round to my house next ? Are they triggered automatically by the device purchase and how mcuh did your power consumption rise while they were there ?

  9. Good stuff Dave. I’m thinking that with your athletic prowess, surely you should be using some sort of running machine that enables you to personally push electricity back into the National Grid and reduce your own costs. Actually, here’s a thought – why not get your whole running club set-up so you meet together in a (darkened) room, all hooked up to running machines at the same time. I reckon you could power the whole of Birmingham. My dream continues….next year’s Birmingham Half Marathon – 10,000 people, all on running machines inside Villa Park and Alex’ Stadium. Its a winner – creates jobs to manufacture these running machines, creates a fitter city and creates electricity. I’m a genius. Vote Bren. Support Dave. We’re a dream ticket!

  10. @John Kirk: I’m about 200 watts with lights out, stuff on standby. That needs to come down. The router/TV/DVD player take about 25 watts of that – I need to hunt down the rest. You clearly need to do something about the bulbs though – that’s way too much.

    @Bren: I like you’re thinking. Others are clearly thinking the same. The idea of collectively generating electricity was something the design council proposed a while back in a project called One Million Roofs.

  11. @Dave Harte. Just bought 10 LED lights for £25. that might help as they are only 2 watts each ? instead of 50 watts x 5.

  12. Now if only someone would come round and run that test on my appliances, and give me a printout to hang by the switch…

    Doctor Watt perhaps?

  13. Pingback: Connecting up my Current Cost meter |

  14. the LEDs I have bought to replace spots in suspended celings are rubbish – even the “more powerful” 3 watt versions. as my old chief phootgrapher used to say about my underexposed negatives – they are like p**sholes in the snow!” Have used the 3 watt LEDs to light non-critical areas but kept the 50 watt ones for the sinks and work surfaces . You live and learn.

  15. If it’s any comfort I still have two 50 watt spots in the kitchen (+two 11 watt low-energy bulbs). It’s the one room I obsess about switching off the lights. The replacement low-energy spots only give out the equivalent of about 35 watts I think.

  16. HI
    I too am having some fun with the Current Cost meter, a few programs have ben written – see the Current Cost web site.

    Hey whilst your looking on the Net have a look at thei supply company – First Utility, they are offering a true mass market SMART meter option, this gives on line access to all the electrical consumption, as well as montly billing that is 100% accurate, they actually read the meter once a day, taking the 48 readings.

  17. Here is an other software that reads the xml data from the current cost device and store it in a local database. The data can be displayed in a web frontend.

    You are able to see the detailed consumption in real time or see your consumption from the last week or from a user defined time range and has a overview of the energy consumption and cost per sensor / sensor position / year / month /day usage

    The storage database is optimized to store millions of voltage data without using much storage. In 4 months a sensor writes about 1.000.000 data sets that use just about 25 MB of storage.

    The hardware used with this project comes from current cost that offers a base station with up to 9 sensors. Measureit supports the usage up to all 9 sensors.

    More informations about measureit you can find in the wiki from the project.

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