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Kickstarter project seeks backers for new fossil fuel metering device

The HeatMeter was developed by a couple of MIT grads and is designed to monitor fossil fuel use at the appliance. They are trying to raise money through Kickstarter to ramp up their production line. This could be the answer to tracking pre/post improvement fossil fuel consumption. Check it out.
(BTW, other than being MIT alumni, I have no affiliation with these people or this company but I did make a pledge so I can get a couple of these installed in my house.)

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/474 ... ave-energy

HeatMeter: Stay Informed, Save Energy

Comments

  • Looks cool. I'm wondering if we might get the folks from HOBO to chime in on whether their vibration loggers can provide this same functionality now.
  • It looks like it would work well with non-modulating appliances, not so sure about modulating if all it's tracking is burner on/off. HOBO can do the same thing, but do they have the automated reporting?
  • Seems this is also posted to Building Science Community earlier today.

    So far no answers to the questions below.
    So here goes again for those who do not see multiple sites:

    From the Kickstarter info it seems this unit only records run time of the burner system, and then then uses Heating Degree Day data based on Zip Code to calculate energy use based on client entered house size and heating unit information. How does it handle modulating burner systems? How does it handle short run time on/off operation? How does it monitor system efficiency? Does it graph HDD and run time to show how they relate?

    What does this tell the client that he cannot get by looking at his gas or fuel oil bills?

    Yes, he gets run time broken down by day rather than total monthly fuel usage but the unit cannot calculate actual fuel usage if you have modern modulating burners. As for claims that you can determine service requirements based on increased fuel usage, client tinkering with settings and daily temperature fluctuations will likely mask any real trends of increased fuel usage which occurs over long periods.

    Seems more like another "app" for people that live with a smart phome in their hand 24 hours per day.
  • On systems with single fire rate, logging the burn cycles will reveal the actual building load if the homeowner is motivated enough to cross-reference against ODT, and clock the gas meter to determine input BTU's, and have a good idea of steady-state efficiency. But alone, burner cycle rate is not very useful, especially for modulating equipment as others have pointed out, other than to red-flag unexpected operation patterns, but that requires some level of expertise to interpret.
  • (Since I posted this comment on the Building Science discussion group for this same topic...)
    This product really needs to integrate electrical load monitoring to be a winner - especially as electric loads increase (many more devices - including smart phone chargers - being connected). As others have said, it is definitely geared to those who want to constantly monitor usage (or just watch an app) and it provides little more useful info than a spreadsheet calculated with montly energy usage and HDD/CDD info.
  • While I am no expert, we have done some of our own monitoring here in Maine where oil is the rule and integrated hot water coils are common.

    I am very excited to see some fresh ideas on this front. My concern with this unit, is it only measures overall run time and does not differentiate what the boiler is actually doing when it is running.

    For example, when a boiler has an integrated coil to make hot water, it could be running for 3 reasons at any given time; making hot water, making heat for the house, or maintaining temp in preparation for someone to use water. A measuring device like this, while able to show an overall reduction in usage, would make it hard to determine which upgrade had the most impact.
  • David ButlerDavid Butler Posts: 3,889
    Bo, in applications where a single water heater is used dhw and space heat, the only way to monitor separately is with a BTU monitor (measures H2O flow and delta-t). But I don't have any links at my fingertips.
  • Very true.

    We have done this by installing a water flow meter on the dhw side and a monitor on the burner. We could then extrapolate when the burner was making hot water. Then we added low voltage monitors to each heating zone to determine when the boiler was running for heat, running for hot water or satisfying stand-by losses.

    Finally, after accounting for all of these (and also testing oil pressure and noting nozzle size) could we determine how much oil was used for each of the three things a boiler with integrated coil does on a daily basis.

    Here is what we determined on our last test for a family of two in Maine:

    Average 31.3 gal hot water/day
    Average 90.1 minutes/day of boiler run time for hot water (= 0.98 gal/day)
    The boiler runs 73.4 minutes per day to satisfy standby losses (= 0.80 gal/day)
    The boiler runs 0.53 minutes to produce each gallon of hot water (= 0.00574 gal oil per gal hot water)
    At 31.3 gal hot water/day, this means 0.18 gal oil/day to produce hot water

    This means he only needed the boiler to run 16 minutes per day to make his hot water. Yet the boiler was running an additional 73.4 minutes per day to maintain temperature and satisfy standby losses! That's 292 gallons of oil per year at .8 gallons per day when he only needs 65 gallons of oi /yr. l to make the hot water he needs.

    I will say this, the 65 gallons seems like a small amount of oil to make hot water for one year. But it is only because the boiler is sitting and waiting at 180 degrees all day everyday in order to make hot water instantly. Does that make any sense??
  • Over twenty years ago we ran a research project that measured the energy loss of residential building enclosures based on the furnace run time. We used common thermostats that record the fan run time for the day, the current week, total of last week, and year to date. We plotted furnace usage to local weather data to great a regression analysis to verify our data accuracy. Colder the water the easier it was to verify the data over a short time period. We did this before and after we used blower door guided weatherization practices. Combustion efficiency test were performed before and after weatherization. We were able to document that the building required less energy after than before the weatherization protocol was executed.

    This Heat Meter is doing the same thing only using the internet to collect the data rather than weekly phone calls that required homeowners to read the thermostat data. We used the data over two heating seasons to verify the research protocol. Once the information of the enclosure heat loss is understood then we only need to know if there is any significant changes that should be investigated. Do homeowners need such a meter? Might be great for facilitating research on buildings with single rate burners, which was the standard years ago. With equipment being required to meet higher efficiency standards, modulating burners are more common.

    I wonder if a Heat Meter will make a difference with homeowners, other than in their pocketbook when they purchase the device. Will people pay to have a meter installed to know how much energy their building enclosure requires?

    Wait a minute, don't they already pay a utility bill!
  • We're using the system below to do whole house and systems monitoring on low load homes in the pac NW. Systems are varied and this monitoring system gives us the flexibility to monitor environmental data (Temp, Rh, VOCs), power and electrical consumption (circuit by circuit with wireless CT's), and water temp and flows. It's got a pretty slick dashboard and gives you lots of the pieces of the puzzle that the product in the OP doesn't. In the case of hydronic radiant systems, logging loop pump on/off times, incoming and outgoing water temps and flows, and outdoor temp will tell you what you need to know on Btu consumption/loss. I'd think you could do similar on a gas forced air system, but I'd have to think about what other data points you'd want to know (like air temp at the grilles and inside the rooms.)

    http://www.powerwisesystems.com/
  • They have an FAQ at the bottom of the page that states they don't do modulating devices, or devices that are nearly silent under the question "Is it Compatible..."