EcoHomeLab – June 2016

by Blog

Last EcoHomeLab was on the 9th of June at MadLab, second Thursday of the month as always. Mix of topics this time, lots of interesting information, discussion and some deep techyness 😉

We were seven people, six usual suspects and Laura who has recently joined the Carbon Coop to deal with our communications. Big welcome to her!!



Heat Pump monitor

Trystan brought the very new (not even in the shop yet) Heat Pump monitor that he has been developing as part of the OpenEnergyMonitor. This new board has some very interesting features that make it unique in the mix of emonTx, emonTH, emonBase and emonPi. Let see:
  • It's been thought and developed to effectively monitor and help improve heat pumps performance, but it is more than a heat pump monitor.
  • Comes with WiFi, no need of EmonBase or Pi. Upload your data straight to
  • It is a kit, back to the original build it yourself we grew up with. And this is a very good thing, carry on reading
  • This new board will be the most flexible one in the Emon family. Because it is a kit you can choose the components to make it suit your needs, this means you can replicate any of the other boards functionality or mix them as you wish.
  • It brings cost down. The fact that you can choose the purpose of the board allows you to spend just on what you need. The most basic full heat pump monitor (no case for example) will cost around £50, while a whole home energy monitor can be £65


EmonTx WiFi adapter

Because life can be easier soon it will possible to upload our data from EmonTx without the need of an emonBase. Not for those ones that want to keep their data locally

Super easy to set up, just open it on your browser, copy and paste your Apikey and done.

In the OpenEnergyMonitor shop soon.


Local Energy in Bethesda

A very exciting project: 100 households in and around Bethesda (North Wales) with smart meters, one local hydro to start with, cheap electricity when it is running. Web app under development to show: hydro status, tariff level, household demand, community aggregated consumption and hydro generation. A real example of the Virtual Smart Grid dashboard that will look like this (sorry for the poor quality of the picture):


Carbon Coop Members Household's footprint

This is a topic that has been in our heads for a while, in fact it is set in our strategy: The domestic carbon emissions of Carbon Co-op members and the wider public in Greater Manchester and beyond, are radically reduced to an extent sufficient to avoid runaway climate change. Also as part of the Green Shift project we will be working with households to reduce their carbon emissions. We want EcoHomeLab to be a space for people to help us imagine how we can achieve this.

So we had a good conversation, kind of brain storm about what to do and thoughts in general:

  • It would be great if Carbon Coop members are given a monitor when they join. Obviously there are issues about this: who pays for it? It is great that the Heat Pump Monitor is multipurpose and bring cost down, could we think about bulk purchases to make it even cheaper?
  • But monitoring consumption/generation is not enough as we need to work with the data available. A Carbon Coop member/worker could be there as a consultant but it would be too expensive and time requiring to do it on one to one basis. So the solution could do to organize sessions with groups of members to work on understanding the data and take the right decisions
  • It would be interesting to aggregate all the data (even if it's just a sample of, let say, 30 members) and follow up year after year the member's footprint in order to assess if there is any change for better.
  • Instead of looking at the whole footprint of the household we could focus in sections: transport, food, heating… Then identify which are the biggest emissions and work on them.
  • Motivation is important and good results help, so we need a nice way to report on them and see that the emissions go down.
  • Some issues were identified: what would be considered too many emissions for a household or how could somebody say if they are doing enough. Lifes are different, houses too, economic resources make a huge difference, having kids… Not reaching the expectations can have the opposite effect to what we want and discourage people…
  • In order to help with decision making, it would be great to make a graph relating energy/emissions savings with cost.

As a good contribution, Trystan told us about a project in his area he was involved with some years ago. 14 households got together, filled up a form and got a footprint snap. They put all the information together, see pictures below, one stack per household. Then they imagined different scenarios and calculated which would be the emissions if they all switched to a green tariff, installed heat pumps, changed to an electric vehicle and finally use train (electric) instead of flying. After that there was not any follow up, we don't know if the project changed the participant's emissions, but it was a very good theoretical exercise and people got to know (looking at their stack in the graphs) how some changes would affect their emissions.


And that was it…

Bit by bit people left and I stayed there with Dom and Trystan. Always great to listen to them, always getting lost at some point of their conversation… carbon intensities, is it of any use to shift consumption under the current circumstances?, can the Virtual Microgrid Dashboard help us reduce emissions now or will it only be useful when we are 100% renewables? Is then our only option now to reduce demand while increasing renewable generation?

Again, inspiring times with good people. Ideas, ideas and more ideas. The journey to a low carbon life is unclear and not easy but so much needed… as others say every little helps and this EcoHomeLab is another step on our attempt to reduce some people's emissions, one day we'll aim for all of us.

… but there is more to come

Yes more and good quality stuff. In the next EcoHomeLab we have a special guest, Phil from the Center for Alternative Technology will be with us. He is one of the modelers of the ZeroCarbonBritain report the flagship research project from the Centre for Alternative Technology, showing that a modern, zero-emissions society is possible using technology available today. He will show/explain/digest their model for us, the tool they used to make the picture of a Zero Carbon Britain. And we will be able to play with the model ourselves, can you design your Zero Carbon Britain?

Put it on the calendar, next EcoHomeLab: 14th of July in Madlab