Network devices such as an emonPi connected to a local network are secured behind a firewall, often integrated into a router.
The conventional way for obtaining access remotely is to open a port in the firewall and ‘port-forward’ requests to this port to the local emonPi. This method works but is cumbersome and insecure. It’s cumbersome because most users connect to the internet via their ISP using a non-static IP. Therefore the WAN IP address often changes, a dynamic DNS service such as Duck DNS, or noIP can be used to link a dynamic IP to a static domain name, however this is cumbersome to set up and often requires purchasing a domain name, dynamic DNS Subscription and handling the dynamic DNS IP address updates.
The port forwarding method of remote access is also insecure since by default the emonPi uses an insecure http connections, this is not a problem on a secure local network but not recommend for use over the internet.
Dataplicity offers a easy to setup web-service service to enable secure remote access (SSH/HTTPS) to RaspberryPi devices. The free tier allows free access to a single RaspberryPi device.
The IoTaWatt uses the WiFi enabled ESP8266 (ESP-12S) microprocessor. The ESP8266 is mounted using NodeMCU adaptor, the decision was made to use the NodeMCU form-factor to allow flexibility for customisation and future upgrades e.g ESP32.
The onboard SD card allows data to be saved locally with high resolution and network resilience. If the IoTaWatt is posting to an Emoncms server and loses network connectivity data logged to the SD card will be bulk uploaded to Emoncms when a network connection is restored.
An on-board real-time clock (RTC) ensure the time-stamp is always correct. The RTC is set using NTP. Using the IoTaWatt on a WiFi network with a reliable internet connection is highly recommended, however, the IoTaWatt can operate without an internet connection once the RTC has been initially set via NTP.
The IoTaWatt is configured via a web interface served directly from the IoTaWatt ESP8266. See IoTaWatt.com for a live demo of the interface.
The IoTaWatt supports automatic over the air (OTA) firmware updates.
Over the last year we have been involved in a project in our local area (Snowdonia, North Wales) called CydYnni – EnergyLocal. The project is at the forefront of making it possible for households to source their electricity directly from local, community-owned renewable sources.
The Bethesda pilot project, How it works
The first part of the CydYnni project started with about 80 households (with 20 more joining soon) and a single 100 kW hydro generator. Using smart meters suitable for half hourly billing in participating households and at the hydro generator, the amount of hydro power used by the community is calculated for every half hour. The hydro tariff is 7p / kWh for the power used each half hour by the community providing a significant saving for households. Any additional power required is bought from the supplier Co-operative Energy on a time-of-use tariff.
The project provides cost savings to participating households, increased income for local renewable energy schemes and a more direct sense of having electricity provided from - in the case of the pilot project a hydro turbine just down the road!
There is a nice video here on the project which gives a good overview:
There are a number of organisations working on the project of which we are one small part:
EnergyLocal: The organisation founded by Mary Gillie with the initial idea and in depth understanding of the energy market behind the project.
CydYnni: A local consortium of community energy projects and organisations including Ynni Ogwen and Partneriaeth Ogwen, Ynni Padarn Peris, Moelyci, Coetir Mynydd, Antur Waunfawr, Ynni Anafon and the National Trust.
Co-operative Energy: The Energy Supplier through which households participate in the project.
Epower also known as NFPAS: The non fossil fuel purchasing agency – handling aggregation, power sharing and the nuts and bolts of billing.
1010: Graphic design
OpenEnergyMonitor: web app development in part 1 and home hub (base-station) development in part 2.
It’s been great being involved in such a pioneering project run in the local community in which we live (the OpenEnergyMonitor office is about 5 miles from Bethesda).
Our role so far has been to develop a web app / energy dashboard so that participants can see when the local hydro generator is running and how likely they are to be on the cheaper hydro tariff. Participants can see their own consumption as well as the aggregated consumption of all participants.
The main energy dashboard app designed by 1010 and implemented by ourselves can be viewed online here:
From the start of January the hydro supplied 57% of the electricity consumption of the participating households. You can really see how the available hydro generation decays usually over about a week after a significant rain event and the extent of the oversupply when it is raining.
It would be interesting to model the addition of solar to see how periods of lower rainfall might be supplanted by solar generation and explore other options for supplying the unmatched demand - e.g. anaerobic digestion.
Part 1: Energy Dashboard / Web App development
This first stage of the project relies on the app or looking at how rainy it is to signal to the households when it’s a good time to use energy. Any demand shifting is done manually by the householder. The data update rate from the smart meters is also relatively slow, with 48 half hourly readings updated daily but usually available in the app with a lag time of anywhere from 15 hours up to 63 hours over the weekend.
Part 2: Hub
The next stage of the project for us is to improve on this with an in home hub (based currently on the OpenEnergyMonitor emonbase), which will interface with a WIFI/radio meter gateway developed by Energy Assets, providing much faster 5-10s meter readings as well as enabling control of smart appliances, plugs and EV charging.
This development has driven some of our most recent improvements to the EmonPi/EmonBase, such as the recently launched WIFI Hotspot setup and ongoing development on the emoncms device module, which alongside auto-configuration of inputs and feeds provides the option to define control devices starting with the Sonoff S20 WIFI Socket, Martin’s WIFI Relay unit and the OpenEVSE charging station.
Over the coming months I will try to blog more on development progress and the technical implementation of the system in addition to insights into the data coming from the project demonstrating local community energy.
Advances Wales is a quarterly magazine showcasing the latest news, research and developments in science, technology and engineering here in Wales, UK.
In the latest issue (82) we have been lucky enough to have an article featuring OpenEnergyMonitor. It’s well written and mentions a number of exciting developments that we have been working on e.g. CydYnni local energy project. Stay tuned for a blog post coming soon about this project.
Yesterday we have launched a significant update to the Emoncms Android app.
1. Multiple emoncms accounts:
Monitor multiple Emoncms accounts, very useful for installers, power users etc.
It’s also possible for these accounts to be on different Emoncms servers e.g. emoncms.org, emonPi, emonBase, yourawesomeserver.com etc. Additional account are easily added to the app using the built in QR code scanner and scanning the QR code on the ‘Account’ section of Emoncms.
2. Multiple MyElectric graphs per account:
Useful to monitor more than one power feed: e.g. House consumption, Heat Pump consumption, Solar PV production, EV charging etc.
3. Multiple currency rates for each MyElectric graph:
e.g day rate / night rate, Economy7, solar PV FIT, hydro etc.
4. Language Translations:
French, German, Dutch, Italien and Spanish all rank among the top 5 for the Emoncms app in terms of active installs. We have now added the full native language support they deserve. Thanks a lot to the community for helping to proof and beta test. See bottom of this post for how to get involved.
5. Chromebook support:
Many Chromebooks can now run native android apps, the Emoncms app works great on a Chromebook. It’s much quicker to load than the web version and does not require a login each time.
Ever since we launched the emonPi we have always wanted to make the first time setup process as easy as possible for new users.
We have just made significant progress in streamlining the setup process by enabling the emonPi / emonBase to broadcast a WiFi access-point (AP) on first boot then scan for local WiFi networks and allow the user to connect. The emonPi will then turn off it’s AP and connect to the local network. There is also an option to connect via Ethernet or stand-alone WiFi AP mode when no local network is available.
The new Network Setup Wizard will be included on all new purchased in July 2017 onwards. Existing emonPi’s with a Raspberry Pi 3 can be updated by running Admin > emonPi update in Emoncms. The emonPi will only broadcast a WiFi AP if Ethernet is not connected and no WiFi setup is currently present.
Trystan is also working on making the input-processing setup for new devices easier by adding device template support to the Emoncms Device module. More on this the come…see development forum thread.
Read on more screenshots of the emonPi network setup wizard….
The Raspberry Pi as been an integral part of the development of the OpenEnergyMonitor system. We make extensive use of the Raspberry Pi in our emonPi and emonBase units. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has always been a big insperation to use, therefore we are honoured to get a little mention on their blog.
I believe automation can play an useful role in helping to reduce energy consumption. For example being able to control my home central heating system remotely enables me to only turn on the heating when it’s required and not have it running on a set schedule when the house is empty.
I would like to highlight a piece of work by Carlos Alonso Gabizón which I think is an important piece of the home energy monitoring and assessment toolkit and a really useful tool, which we would be keen to see more people use.
Carlos has been working for CarbonCoop over the last year and a half on MyHomeEnergyPlanner – an open source household energy assessment tool based on SAP 2012 – a monthly domestic energy model.
MyHomeEnergyPlanner started as a collaboration between OpenEnergyMonitor and CarbonCoop but this latest version and active work on it over the last year and a half is all down to Carlos and CarbonCoop.
MyHomeEnergyPlanner can be used to calculate the space and water heating requirements for a home from a detailed breakdown of the building fabric: floor, walls, roof, windows etc. It uses U-values and areas to calculate building fabric heat loss rates, combined with calculated heat loss from infiltration and ventilation and heat gains from solar radiation, lighting, household appliances, cooking and occupants.
It can be used to model a building in its current form and then create scenarios to explore the effect of undertaking measures such as adding insulation, improving air-tightness and changing heating systems.
MyHomeEnergyPlanner is free to use and open source and is now installed on emoncms.org (Login with your Emoncms.org account)