Catching the Energy Thief

Stefan Maibücher, Alexander Solms

project report

One year ago, RWE was conducting an analysis of our school's electricity consumption, where the electricity use was recorded every 15 minutes. Such power diagrams are useful, however, the data recording system costs about 5000 DM. As this is too expensive for our school budget, we were asked by our school's energy team to find a practical low-cost solution for recording the electricity, gas and water use every 15 minutes.

Of course, we cannot simply connect a data recording system to the electricity meter as it is sealed. Similar problems apply to the gas and water meters. Therefore we tried to record the electricity, gas and water use with a video camera and a video cassette recorder (VCR). However, normal VCRs cannot be programmed for more than 8 recordings per day, which is not sufficient to cover 24 hours.

After exploring several dead ends, we found a practical low-cost solution based on a universal remote control (about 30 DM) that we controlled using a computer via the parallel port. This solution allows us to control the VCRs and to record our school's electricity, gas and water readings following any recording schedule.

In spite of our technical solution, we are convinced that technology alone cannot solve the world's environmental problems. Therefore we have actively participated in our school's energy conservation project.

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