Permaculture - Spring 2010

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analysis. Logging into your AlertMe account (£2.99 per month) shows you the information in a pure data log form.

What has it done for me? Well, its certainly added a lot to my knowledge of how and when power is used. It is amazing the things you notice like the increase in usage during the cold weather despite the fact the house is heated by gas. This was caused by a change in habits as a reaction to the weather; more hot drinks, toast, roast dinners, etc, plus lots of extra washing, drying and ironing as the back-log got cleared by the stir-crazy wife.

An extended version of this product review as well as recent past reviews can be found at: http://permaculture magazinereviews.blogspot.comCheaper By The MeterBack in PM51 I reviewed the Owl Monitor. I still have it, and it has proved to be the best energy saving device I have tried. In the meantime, energy monitors have evolved and Owl have responded by updating their product with the addition of a memory function. So now it displays (current and historical): electricity (kW), greenhouse gas (CO2), cost (£/$), plus the current time, date and temperature. I still love it and it is my first glance guide to my household energy consumption. However, when I read that Google had brought out a PowerMeter so that electricity usage could be monitored online I was intrigued to give it go. To make it work you need to buy AlertMe which wirelessly monitors the electricity being drawn through your meter in the same way as the Owl does, but instead of displaying the data it sends it to the internet via an ethernet connected hub. This is then displayed as a real time and historical display of electricity usage in graphical form on your iGoogle home page. It shows peaks in usage and baseline (always on constant loads), kW used and approx cost per annum. It also displays trends, the relationship between current usage and the expected usage based on past data. The data can also be downloaded as a spreadsheet if you need it for further

The great thing about this system over other monitors is that you don’t have to get up at 3a.m. to see what your base load is, and it is easier to pin down appliances to power events. I think it is a really useful tool, but whether I renew my subscription next year or not, we will have to wait and see.

Another bit of metering I have tried is the Efergy Shower Timer, which once calibrated sounds an alarm when the set amount of water has been used. A great idea which in theory should save both water and the energy used to heat it – my only problem was persuading the family to use it. It has, however, raised awareness and caused some discussion so it is probably well worth the modest investment.Brilliant IdeasOne thing monitoring my electrical usage showed me, was that the kitchen lights were rarely off and used a significant amount of power. So I have changed them to two banks of lights. The main lights now use less than half the old ones did, but don’t provide work light. The working lights are low voltage spots over the work surfaces and under the cupboards, wired to a Bye Bye Standby Plug Module and triggered wirelessly by a Bye Bye Standby Motion Sensor on the wall. Now we have more light than before for food prep and cooking, but only while it’s being done; walk away and the lights go out. Brilliant. Another brilliant idea is the Power Plus Firefly Dynamo Light. This compact light has 19 LEDs and recharges by hand cranked dynamo or any powered USB socket. It has four modes, low, high, red, and red flash. It will stand on its side, can be hung by the hook on the folding D handle, carried as a torch or attached to a flat metal surface by the magnets on the back. Fully charged it will provide hours of light. It’s compact, versatile and has a very good light output. John AdamsOwl Wireless MonitorWall mount or table top display, transmitter and sensor. 6 x AA batteries included2SE-OWM £37.50 inc. p&p (UK only)Bye Bye Standby Motion Sensor Wireless, Requires 3 x AAA batteries

Works with Bye Bye Standby plug modules. DO-MMSMS £19.95 inc. p&p (UK only)Bye Bye Standby Plug Modules 240V, 1000W, Twin pack DO-BEP £16.45 including p&p (UK only)AlertMe Requires ethernet broadband£69.00 + £2.99 per month

Power Plus Firefly Dynamo Light Size:100 x 100 x 40mm (4 x 4 x 1.5in) 19 LEDs 16 white, 3 red. Hand crank or USB charging. TAN-FIRE £22.50 inc. p&p (UK only)Efergy Shower Timer

Time, litres, alarm. Batteries inc. TAN-EST £11.95 includes p&p (UK only)

16 Permaculture Magazine No. 63

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Little Shop of Wonders

Maddy Harland tells the story of how Ben Law built a community-owned ecoshop in his village using locally sourced roundwood timber framing.

No. 6317Permaculture Magazine