Powerpal Optical Smartmeter Energy Monitor - PVoutput Integration


#1

In the search for an optical smart meter energy monitor to log and display electricity consumption data, I stumbled across a new product to market called Powerpal.

Powerpal is an optical energy monitor which reads the kWhr pulses for smart meters and has cloud based data storage and trending capabilities. This is not new technology but the Powerpal implementation is quite different to what I’ve seen previously.

I have Currentcost CT clamps that I’ve used with very limited success to monitor home energy consumption but as most people know, they are notoriously inaccurate as they don’t account for power factor. Optical smart meter readers are theoretically 100% accurate which is why this product will be great if it delivers.

The device stores consumption data locally in the transmitter and periodically sends the data to the cloud storage via a mobile phone app over a Bluetooth connection.

The Powerpal app allows historical data to be reviewed and also seems to be able to show energy usage in close to realtime.

The product web site provides quite a lot of detail about the programming API and it made me wonder if some clever person could create an interface to send data to PVoutput?

I have no association with Powerpal or any person working for the company.


#2

One caution about using power pulse readers. If you are talking about detecting the IR pulse output by the meter be aware that the pulse does not carry direction information. That is, you cannot tell whether the pulse if drawing from the grid or feeding into the grid. If you are talking about a smart meter which detects pulses and the current direction as well you are on firm ground.


#3

I’m not aware of any utility power meter that has a single pulse LED that provides direction information. I know some tariff meters have two pulse LEDs, one for import and another for export.

During solar generator export, the pulse LED on my power meter will stop flashing indicating zero consumption.

From my point of view monitoring imported (consumption) power separately to generation is vastly more useful that having both import and export monitored on the same device.

Generally, I would think people want to know how much power they are drawing from the grid so that they can control and manage their consumption to maximize the use of solar. There is nothing I can do to control the amount of solar power production hence, no point try to monitor real time net exported power at the meter.

Anyone interested enough to monitor power consumption is likely to have a separate monitor on their solar inverter and would use PVoutput to calculate and trend net power/energy from the separate consumption and generation data streams.

The beauty of kWhr pulse count energy monitors is that they are theoretically 100% accurate, not affected by voltage fluctuations, power factor or CT accuracy. I have a current cost CT clamp power monitor which is next to useless as an accurate consumption recording device over the range of power usage scenarios in my home. I have now relegated the CT clamp power meter to monitor my power hungry ducted inverter AC system which has a relatively constant power factor over its load range by virtue of the inverter driven compressor. This is the only situation where I believe the CT clamps come close to providing consistent and accurate readings.

It’s rare to see an Australian made/developed niche product of this type and it would be great if this community got behind the product to ensure it gets further developed and improved.


#4

For what it’s worth, stating that a pulse counter is nearly 100% accurate can be misleading. I agree that a pulse counter is pretty good at counting pulses, but those pulses are dependant on the meter that originates them and thus its accuracy.

Another option that might be available to you is a home energy gateway such as the Rainforest Eagle. It’s compatible with the Australian Victoria State utilitiy’s smart meters listed on this page. This device directly reads your smart meter’s data and can report imported energy, exported energy and instantaneous power. The data it provides would be no more or less accurate than a pulse counter but it has greater capabilities.


#5

I’m not sure what you mean when you say the accuracy of pulse count power monitors are “dependent on the meter that originates them and thus it’s accuracy”.

I think you may have misread what I wrote because I stated that pulse count power monitors are “theoretically” 100% accurate meaning that at best it is as accurate as the device measuring the power consumption which in this case is the tariff meter itself.

All tariff grade meters, the type installed by electrical supply authorities, have a statutory obligation to be within 2% accuracy. In reality they are generally much more accurate. They need to be because you are charged your power usage based on it’s readings.

When I said that the pulse count meters are theoretically 100% accurate I was referring to the fact that the energy monitor will report exactly what the tariff meter reports however errors might be introduced if the optical sensor is affected by ambient light or misses pulses or the software that counts the pulses somehow averages the results to obtain a marginally different consumption number.

Either way, it seems that we agree at least that optical pulse count meters are more than accurate enough for the average user.

Unfortunately, the tariff meter I have installed does not have comms so products such a the Rainforest Eagle are a no-go. Here in Western Australia were are not blessed with a forward thinking and proactive supply authority that installs genuine smart meters. We are stuck with dumb energy meters that at best have pulse indicators which severely limits our options when it comes to power monitors.


#6

I think we’re saying the same thing. My only point was that the pulse counter is not actually measuring energy directly.

You’re right about tariff grade meters being very accurate. We would call those revenue class meters here in the states and they are typically accurate to 0.2%.