Source: Solar Business Services, 21-05-2013
More often than not, when I research and post stories the consequences are unexpected and new stories emerge.
A few weeks ago I wrote a story about how disappointed I was with the energy monitoring offer from my utility and lo and behold; my phone started ringing with news from other product suppliers.
Some of them I knew about, others I didn’t so that’s awesome. Pretty quickly, samples started to arrive in the mail too and I’m now in the rather bizarre position of having to monitor my monitoring systems with no less than 6 different products hooked up.
A sign of the times perhaps is that my 5 year old after grilling me relentlessly about “what all that stuff was for” sat quietly thinking for a while and then said “but dad, all that stuff must be using a lot of power right?” . So we then proceeded to switch loads on and off all around the house (to his enormous pleasure), until we could monitor the monitoring loads, compare it to other loads. It took a full hour before he looked satisfied, shrugged his shoulders and walked off nonplussed, ending his relentless interrogation and freeing him up to get back to important tasks like breaking stuff and losing my tools.
The fact that my 5 year old got this whole concept is a great segway to the first of the products – The Wattson. Its simple, designed for unskilled installation and although not as accurate as some other devices. it performs its function well.
SolarJuice are the Australian Distributor for the Wattson range and the unit they sent me retails for around $200; pretty good value. I also see from their brochures and web sites that a bunch of new features and options are coming soon that will take it to a whole new level.
The first tip is if you are going to fit the system to a house with a PV systems then get the extra Y cable kit. The rest was simple and only required CT’s to be clamped around the right cables to get it up and running. In my case with recently refurbished and well marked switchboards this was easy; older places will find it harder.
Once the cables were all in, hold down the transmitter button, pair to the display and things started working. I did read the manual which is ok (although mildly confusing in places) and it warned that unusually high readings were a sign you needed to flip one of the CT’s 180 degree’s – which I had to do. Then, by bringing loads back on I was able to determine that it was working accurately.
The Wattson display has a motion activated sensor which changes its display mode as you tilt it up and down. Personally I found this annoying and would prefer a switch or two. The display also features an opaque white plastic face with bright read LED numbers underneath. I love the size and the brightness but I still find it hard to read; undoubtedly my long sightedness doesn’t help, but having the LEDs behind the plastic seem’s to blur the definition a bit for me, but that’s a personal thing.
In their attempts to keep costs down, you need to log on and download some software to make some changes to the default settings but this was pretty simple and worked well first time. I must admit to sitting there gawping in amazement and zooming in and out on various graphs. Its basic but cool. Straight away I recognised a spike in demand too – a signal that my electric bike charger was switching on.
The Wattson stored data for 30 days and you need to plug in to download it so its has minimal use as a long term logger, but thats ok; its a low cost display not a logger.
The real world
My beloved is a very tough but fair critic and the best gauge of practical worthiness of anything or anyone. Although her initial reaction was “not another ^&^* gadget, what on earth do we need that for?” she recently admitted to a friend that she likes “being able to see how much power is being used” (although she made me hide it in a corner because it doesn’t look right).
The boys – upon discovering that it did things and had buttons – have shaken it, dropped it, tilted it and pressed its buttons in a durability test that IKEA would be proud of. It still works.
I have noticed a difference between the inverter output and the Wattson PV output, but its pretty minor – a few watts. I also noticed that it had stopped working after a week or so and realised the original batteries in the transmitter had failed after around 2 weeks. The manual does warn of the consumption issue and the batteries could be old so I’ll reserve judgement.
I love how simple it is to install, it’s decent quality and accuracy for the price and you can geek it up with the online data tools if you want to.
If you want a low cost, decent gadget to help you understand your consumption and generation, I reckon the Wattson is well worth a look.
If you are a solar installer, keep your eyes open for their new options which extend the functionality even further.