TED tracks energy use down to the last watt

ted1editors-blog-entry3If you’re an energy conservation geek, or if you just like to save money — or both, chances are you may have heard of TED.

TED (The Energy Detective) is an electronic device that allows you to monitor your home energy use and, if you have a home solar system, home energy production in real time. Plug it into Google PowerMeter, or another application, and you can watch your home energy consumption and production from anywhere in the world.

TED comes in several different varieties, with the lower end TED priced at $200 and the highest end TED currently going for $456.

We got a mid-range TED packaged with our recently installed 5.59 kW home solar system, the TED 5002-C ($320).

TED’s main display page provides lots of information — but the presentation makes the eye work too hard.

A review of TED–>

Generally, TED’s pluses outweigh its minuses – with one of the biggest minuses the fact that TED seems to be a BETA product that’s on the market before enough of its technological bugs have been worked out.

I am also very disappointed that TED does not enable you to project your home solar production by itself onto the Internet and neither does Google PowerMeter. This, coupled with the fact that we’ve had trouble with TED’s hardware, has been almost enough to push me to return TED to our solar company, REC Solar, and have them replace it with an SMA Web monitoring system, which, in contrast to TED, is specifically designed with solar in mind.

However, TED’s capacity to do what its name says it does – hunt down energy use – is just so cool that we’ll probably stick with it and hope that eventually it, or a user-friendly software add-on, will make it easy and secure for TED owners who have solar to project just their solar production onto the web for public viewing.

Here’s a list of TED’s pluses and strengths, followed by a list of minuses and weaknesses:

TED’s pluses/strengths

  • TED allows you to see how much energy individual electronic appliances and items are using, right down to the individual watt.
    • TED has allowed me to see just how much less energy intensive a ceiling fan is as opposed to a central air conditioner (in our case, the ceiling fan is about 33 times less energy intensive);
    • It’s made me realize that, by golly, our dishwasher uses electricity to heat the water it uses rather than drawing hot water from our natural gas hot water heater;
    • It’s allowed me to see just how much energy our electric dryer uses (when it’s actively heating, it draws nearly 7 kWh);
    • TED has helped me figure out how much energy our cable box consumes, even when the TV is not on (about 40 watts);
    • TED has allowed me to have fun doing things like turning night lights on and off to see if TED can pick this up – and, yes, it can pick up the 3 watt difference!
  • ted-graph1
    TED allows you to graph your energy use, solar production, and net use/production.

    TED integrates with Google PowerMeter. This allows you to view your home’s energy use from anywhere in the world;

  • TED allows you to see energy use, solar production and net energy consumption (the combination of the first two);
  • TED also allows you to chart energy use and solar production historically.


  • We’ve experienced several hardware problems with TED. For example, our first plug-in gateway did not communicate regularly with the remote LCD Device. Additionally, the LCD Device, which supposedly you can carry around off of its charging pad for up to 45 minutes, loses its charge in 30 seconds. TED has sent us a new gateway, which works properly. However, the second LCD remote device we received from TED did not receive data from the gateway. So, TED is sending us a third LCD remote device.
  • The graphic design of the TED software that runs on your computer looks like something out of the 1970s. It takes too much eye-work to decipher all of the information that’s thrust at you on the LIVE DASHBOARD, for example, due to TED’s graphic presentation of the data.
  • Setting up TED to project data onto a web site, or just so that you can access it from outside of the house, is too difficult, at least for average consumers like me.
  • It’s not possible to project just your solar production onto the Internet, either via TED, or via Google PowerMeter. This is a big-time limitation if you’re a solar homeowner like me who’s looking to publish one’s solar system production to the web. If this is your main goal, then TED is not for you.
  • TED’s remote LCD Device does not allow you to view solar production only in real time, it only monitors real-time net use. You can view your solar only production via the computer software interface, though
TED integrates with Google PowerMeter which allows you to view your solar production in real time — but you you’re not able to publish the data publicly to the web.

The final scoop on TED
In sum, TED is a really cool product in terms of its ability to show you, in real-time, what your energy use is. It helps you document electricity use by electronic items in your home, down to the very last watt. For energy conservation geeks like me, that’s great.

However, there’s a good chance that you might experience hardware issues with TED at first, at least if our own experience, and the experiences of many of the people posting to TED’s help forum, are any indication of what your experience will be. So far, TED has quickly sent replacement items (though one of them didn’t work).

Finally, while TED has worked to integrate the capacity to measure and monitor solar production into its product, this capacity simply is not what it should be. This is especially true if you’re a solar homeowner who wants to project his or her solar system’s projection onto the web. TED doesn’t allow you to do this without also projecting your home energy use onto the web as well, and publishing your home energy use publicly to the web is something few of us are going to want to do due to the obvious home security risks of doing so.

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