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Plugwise Energy Monitoring and Saving

Plugwise Energy Monitoring And Saving

Find out about the Plugwise system for energy monitoring and control of individual appliances

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In our article Bwired Energy Usage and Home Automation we looked at a home in the Netherlands which uses the Plugwise system to track electricity usage and control individual appliances. In this article we will look in more detail at Plugwise.


Plugwise is a system which enables the electricity usage of individual appliances to be monitored in real time wirelessly. While a basic plug-in power monitor enables the electricity consumption of an appliance to be monitored, and devices such as Owl and Efergy enable whole house (or office) consumption to be tracked wirelessly, Plugwise goes one stop further.

Plugwise system components - circuit, source, and stick
The Plugwise system is made up of three components pictured above and described below:
Circle - a plug which goes between the plug of an appliance and the mains power socket.
Stick - a USB device which is plugged into a personal computer and receives data wirelessly from the Circle(s). This Stick can also transmit instructions wirelessly to Circles to turn appliances on or off.
Circle+ - a Circle which contains a real-time clock and battery. Circle+ is used to co-ordinate the Circles within the network. This also acts as a regular Circle as described above.
Source - software which is installed on the computer to process the collected electricity consumption data in realtime, display it numerically and in charts, and log it for later analysis. The Source software is also used to manually or automatically turn appliances on or off.

Plugwise Circles communicate with one another and with the Stick via the ZigBee wireless communication protocol. This protocol (not to be confused with Bluetooth) is designed for applications where low data transmission rates are acceptable, long battery life is essential, and secure networking is required. (Click here to view the ZigBee article in Wikipedia for more information).

Plugwise Mesh Network - connecting circles to the stick

The Circles form a mesh network between themselves and the Stick. As the transmission range of ZigBee is limited, tranmissions from Circles distant from the Stick are sent by the shortest available route via other Circles located nearer to the Stick.

Each Circle has a unique ID code. Using the Source software you simply enter the name of the appliance plugged into each Circle having noted the ID codes, and you can start tracking electricity consumption immediately.

The Benefits of Plugwise

Plugwise is primarily designed as an energy saving product. By being made aware of where electricity is used in the home and office, it is possible to identify ways to reduce consumption. With average consumpion of 3500 to 5000 kWh (units) of electricity per year for the average European household, Plugwise predict huge savings of 500-600 kWh are possible.

Since Plugwise can be used to turn appliances on and off (as well as measuring their electricity consumption), it opens up the unique possibility of Peak Shaving. At present when there is a surge in demand for electricity, suppliers struggle to meet it. In California for example, this has already led to serious power blackouts. Peak Shaving reduces peak demand by automatically switching off certain (non-critical) appliances in homes and offices when demand for electricity is about to exceed supply. Consumers who sign up to peak shaving programmes can expect reduced tariffs.

Plugwise Software Scheduling

For those on electricity tariffs with different pricing at different times of the day, the Plugwise Source software can be set up to schedule tasks to benefit from the lowest rates - e.g. starting the dishwasher at night. This reduces the cost of electricity for the consumer, and again reduces peak demand for the utility company so that less new power stations will need to be built.

New Plugwise Products

Plugwise socket and switch - new products for Q4 2008

By the end of 2008 additional Plugwise components will be added. These include Switch - a battery powered wireless double switch which can be programmed (using Source software) to control multiple lamps and appliances at the same time, and Socket - a built in version of the Circle which will measure the consumption of fitted lighting circuits etc.

The next version of the Source software (scheduled for end 2008) will allow bi-directional measuring. This will enable renewable energy generation (wind and solar for example) to be tracked in the same way that energy consumption is already being measured.

Buying Plugwise

Plugwise is currently only available with a Euro-style (two-pin) plug. At the start of 2009 a UK-style (3-pin) version will go on sale, but until then Plugwise Circles can be used with travel adapters (two per Circle!) here in the UK. The Source software is already produced in English, and the Getting Started Guide and full Plugwise Manual will be available in English also at the start of 2009.
Plugwise Home Basic Kit

The standard Home Basic Pack includes one Circle+, eight Circles, Stick, and Source software for around 360. This can be coupled with the Home Extension Pack, available for around 360 which contains ten Circles to extend your Plugwise network. A Home Start Packet is also available for around 125 which has just one Circle+, Stick, and Source to get your started.

When you consider the price of a standard plug-in mains power meter (£10-30), and the additional functionality of the Plugwise Circles, they are great value for money at around £20 each.

For commerical buyers, flexible Plugwise packages are available for use within offices and large buildings under the name Pro Basic with up to 60 Circles per network, multiple interconnected networks possible, more advanced software, internet access of collected data in realtime, and much more.

More Plugwise Information

Click here to visit the official Plugwise Website (in Dutch). An English language version of the website is available here, but currently there is more information and images of the Plugwise system on the original Dutch site. There are three Plugwise videos available to view here which are in Dutch, but give a good feel of what Plugwise can achieve.

Article Last Modified: 15:20, 8th Sep 2008

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If you have any comments on this article, please email them to neil@reuk.co.uk.

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