Like Peanut Butter & Jelly: PowerHouse Dynamics and Solar Power [Video Interview]

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – see a list of links to the full series here, a list of frequently asked questions here or click here to bring up all Green-related postsPrevious Post in Series.]

[Update: Here’s a link to another video interview Martin just did with TMC’s Rich Tehrani.]

I have been tweeting a bit about my negative (as in credit to me!) power bills recently (e.g. minus $64.44 in April), but it has been a while since I have done a solar update.  Because I just recently caught up with Martin Flusberg, CEO of PowerHouse Dynamics for my Video Interview Series, and I needed to publish the video (below), I figured this was a great excuse to get into a little more detail on the awesomeness of my PowerHouse Dynamics eMonitor system.   I’ve mentioned it a couple times in earlier posts (here and here), but its time for a real explanation. (Disclosure: I am an investor in PowerHouse Dynamics.)

As Martin mentions in the video, PowerHouse Dynamics has been on a roll lately (see also MassHighTech: “Powerhouse Dynamics To Expand Staff, Inventory”).  The key to their success and the heart of the eMonitor system is a rugged box next to your electrical panel to which you connect a bunch of current sensors – one for each circuit in your house you want to monitor. My model can support up to 44 circuits, which is as much or more than even most modern houses will need.  The sensors are just small magnetic donuts that encircle the wire for each circuit in the electrical box.  The box collects the signals to determine the current flowing and sends all the data up to the cloud where it is stored for you to view it.  Once the box is installed, you never need to touch it again.  It is an easy do-it-yourself project, or you could have an electrician do it in an hour or two.  In our case, because we were installing it as part of or solar project, the installer of our system, Independent Power Systems, took care of it.

The hardware is great quality, but the real power of the system is the software.  The heart of the eMonitor system is a very sophisticated web dashboard that gives you a very detailed set of insights into your realtime and your historical power use on a circuit by circuit basis.  Here’s a birdseye view of what the full dashboard looks like (see Figure 1).

Because our house is solar and a net energy producer, I have two main dials, not one, and Figure 2 is a close up of what they look like – my energy production is on the right, and the net energy flow through my power meter is on the left.  When it is orange (at night) as in the top illustration, it means my utility meter is running forward and I am using electricity from the grid.  When it is green, as in the bottom illustration, it means my meter is running backwards and I am selling power back to the grid (hence my negative electricity bills).  For additional information on on net metering, see this post on the state incentives for our project, or the discussion in this section of the FAQ.

But the main flow of power on the main dials is not the only production information you get, or even the most useful.  You can drill in and see additional detail on the past 30 days, projected savings, a comparison from day to day, power production by individual solar power inverter.

And you can even drill down to the moment the power comes online at sunrise in the morning and compare it to the onset the day before – when the light is changing quickly in the Spring and Fall, this is kind of a cool comparison to look at (in Figure 4 the significant difference is due to it being overcast one day and not the other, so it took longer for the system to power up).

There are also many different views of your production detail in graphical form, as Figure 5 shows.

As Martin points out in the video, a disproportionate number of Powerhouse Dynamics customers are solar producers, but the majority are not, so the system provides a great deal of useful information on the consumption side as well. For example, in Figure 6 you can see that the system provides a summary of the key circuits by the amount of power used in the last month, the cost per circuit, a live view of which circuits are consuming the most power at any one time, and even an estimate of your household’s carbon footprint (because we are a net producer, our is 0 lbs, as compared to the Massachusetts average of 573 lbs. – see Figure 6).

And virtually every element on every dashboard is click-able to give you more detail and additional views of the data.  You can toggle through yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and minute by minute views, you can drill in to additional circuit level detail, and you can download it all for graphing purposes, to compare, say days of the week, and see the effect doing laundry mostly on Sundays has on that day’s average consumption.  Figure 7 is a detailed look at one circuit:

And finally, you can of course review it all remotely on your smartphone using the PowerHouse Dynamics mobile App which also has a bunch of different screens (see figure 8).

Martin Flusberg – Entrepreneur Video Interview Series Part 1 of 2

Martin Flusberg – Entrepreneur Video Interview Series Part 2 of 2

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – see a list of links to the full series here, a list of frequently asked questions here or click here to bring up all Green-related posts.  Previous Post in Series.]

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