Consumer Technology

Published on April 22nd, 2009 | by Derek Markham


Family Tweets Home Energy Use and Streams Data Live on Web

April 22nd, 2009 by  

Energy Circle electrical consumption

In a public bid for transparency and awareness in home electrical consumption, a Maine family of four is broadcasting their electricity use live via the web and a Twitter feed.

“Amidst massive greenwashing and general noise of the highest profile Earth Day in years, we’ve committed ourselves to one simple act: exposing our home’s electricity use publicly. We’re doing this because we believe measurement of home electrical use is the first step toward energy savings, and that we, as a family, will be motivated by making the data public.” – Troast

Peter Troast found that by simply measuring the family’s energy use, they created an awareness of it which resulted in an almost immediate 15% reduction in use, and he believes it can work for anyone.


Troast has connected an electricity usage monitoring device called The Energy Detective (TED) to the junction box in his basement and rigged it to transmit the data to the internet. Viewers can watch the Troast family’s electrical use at any time via their website at Energy Circle TED display.

Twitter energy usage

Throughout the day, followers of @EnergyCircleKW will get a brief update via Twitter of how the family’s activities affect the levels on the graph (someone is using the dryer, or the heater is on, or perhaps it’s the end of the day and electric usage is at the low for the day). Without the context of the family’s patterns, the web data doesn’t mean that much to viewers, but by combining it with the Twitter feed, people can see the spikes and dips and relate those to the activities of the house.

Troast and his family live on the coast of Maine in an 80s-style home with plenty of air leaks and building flaws, not a high-efficiency ‘green home’, so the experiment should reflect the energy usage and patterns of an average household.

“We hope this demonstration will show how easy it is to monitor your home’s electrical use in real-time and use the information and awareness to manage your power consumption to save energy and money.”

Efficiency is the most affordable renewable resource we have right now, and until a major breakthrough happens in the price and scalability of solar or wind power, focusing on the awareness and control of energy usage by the consumer may have the greatest impact. The Energy Detective could be the tool that makes it happen.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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