Tracking Realtime Electrical Usage With Bidgely

I live in California, which is served by Pacific Gas and Electric. It’s one of the enlightened utilities which has installed smart electric meters in many of its customers’ homes, including mine. The meters monitor electrical usage continuously, and report back to PGE. Using the data, they can change how much they generate to keep up with demand, see when people are using the most energy, and (of course) bill you more easily!

What’s enlightened about that? Well, PGE does something else with all their data; they let you see it. By default, any PGE customer with a smart meter can log into an online account and see their usage data, broken down hourly, for the previous day. It’s a neat feature for seeing how much you use and when. I’ve used it to try and reduce “background” electrical usage by shutting down appliances which draw small amounts of power continuously.

While the basic PGE interface is nice, it’s not terribly useful for making realtime changes; it’s hard to motivate yourself to turn off extra lights if you won’t see the change in your usage until tomorrow, and only if you log into a web interface, zoom to hourly resolution, and compare that hour to the hours before and after it. And the PGE interface is basically useless for home automation, because it’s nearly impossible to scrape the data and integrate into your HA system (I’ve tried).

That’s why I was excited to discover–on the PGE website, no less–a series of links to so-called HAN devices. These devices use ZigBee radios to connect directly to your smart meter (from PGE or many other utilities), grab usage data on a 10-20 second resolution, and then send that data over the Internet to a fancier, snazzier interface which lets you view it in near realtime.

The website offered several potential devices which work with PGE meters, but I settled on something called the Rainforest Edge from a company called Bidgely. The device arrived, and I lot it up and running. Lo and behold, it works! I’ll do a full page about using it, but I’m now getting realtime electrical usage data. Turn off a light, and the number changes immediately. Bidgely can even automatically tell you which appliances are using how much electricity, without any additional equipment.

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If you use PGE or another compatible utility, check out the Rainforst Edge on Amazon, and Bidgely here.

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