Josh
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I don't know how widespread the idea is, but our electric utility company has an interesting program that I wanted to pass along. It's a Smart Monitor program, and I've found it to be interesting and worthwhile.

According to an electrical engineer friend* who works for the local utility and attends my "Friday Night Thing with Cardboard and Drinks," electric companies must build enough infrastructure to handle peak energy consumption. If they cannot handle peak consumption, blackout and brownouts occur. The problem is that electricity usage is not smooth over time, but rather there is a huge spike in use during the afternoons in the summer (AC, especially commercial AC, runs the show). As such, the energy company charges more when demand is higher, but is interested in trying to smooth our the peaks and valleys in usage, so they do not have to invest in very expensive infrastructure that would lay fallow for most of the time.

The Smart Monitor program consists of a proprietary programmable thermostat (and everyone should have a programmable thermostat in this day and age, anyone can install one) and a little box the size of a pager. The thermostat and the box communicate via the magic of science. The box allows you to see exactly how much you are being charged per kWh of energy (which ranges from 2 cents/kWh to 50 cents/kWh for us), how much you are using, and then by doing some tricky math, how much your electricity is costing per hour right that very moment (which has ranged from 2 cents/hr to $3.75/hr(!) for us).

Another aspect of the program is that you can set it to turn off your AC when the electricity gets above a certain price. This is voluntary and can be overridden at any time.

If there is an ominous side to this program, I don't see it. It helps in energy conservation. It can save you money. It educates the consumer by providing a real-time feedback loop. I was blown away when I learned that our energy cost can vary by a factor of almost 200.


*A recent conversation between me and him at my Friday Thing:

Me: What do you think would happen if I took a .30-30 deer rifle and shot one of those gigantic digital billboards on I-35?

Him: Well, they are just a bunch of flat-screen TVs assembled into one huge image, so there would be a small area of the picture that would be blank. Why do you ask?

Me: No reason, now...


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Amy Wiles
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Macon
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Can you monitor it from your computer while you're away from home? Our power company recently changed the meter outside our house to a "Smart Meter" or something (I thought that's what this thread was going to be about). You're supposed to have the ability to monitor your daily usage from your computer, but they've not set that part up yet.

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Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Electrical Engineering is a huge field. I, for example, didn't take the class on shooting up electronic billboards. Lucky for you your friend did. (I thought "Self Defense against Robots" was more useful. I haven't been proven right ... yet).
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Josh
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amwiles wrote:

Can you monitor it from your computer while you're away from home? Our power company recently changed the meter outside our house to a "Smart Meter" or something (I thought that's what this thread was going to be about). You're supposed to have the ability to monitor your daily usage from your computer, but they've not set that part up yet.

My mom has that, and it's a bit different. I suspect your utility changed the meter to one that beams the reading via radio so that it can be read remotely. My mom gets periodic emails stating how much she's used, but it does not allow the real-time monitoring of my gizmo. Of course, your program may vary.
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Billy McBoatface
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Lexington
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If you used a shotgun from a decent range, do you think that maybe a lucky shot would take out ALL the little TV's? Probably not, but it might be fun to try, hey? Maybe you and your friends could make a game of it, each shoot a different animated billboard and see who can knock out the most components. Wouldn't that be fun!

Not that I would ever recommend vandalism or anything. Just thinking about what it would be like.
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Cool User
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I don't know how common this is elsewhere, but my AC is routed through a separate meter. The power company reserves the right to shut off power to that meter for 15 minute periods followed by 15 minutes of operation. The trade-off is that the power through the interruptible meter is about 20% cheaper.

Smart metering is not available in my city, nor will it be in the foreseeable future (according to the utility's website).
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Rob
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We don't have them in my area, but I've already been accosted at a party by a tin-foil-hat fellow who swore this was an evil conspiracy cooked up by GE and One World Government groups.
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Michael Edwards
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Everett
Washington
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Bankler wrote:
I thought "Self Defense against Robots" was more useful. I haven't been proven right ... yet.


I'll note that a manual I was just reading featured this actual caption:

Quote:
Figure 2: Removing the Restraints from the Robot.


Mind you, after that, further instructions were obscured by the bloodstains.
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