A year or two ago, I took the plunge and had a smart meter installed. I naively thought that being able to read energy usage was a simple case of connecting a ConBee-II or similar to the ZigBee HAN.
To save anyone else from going through the same range of emotions as I did, here’s how you can read your own smart meter data.
Your electricity meter has two parts – a metering device, and a communications device located at the top. The electricity meter periodically sends energy usage information over a communications network to your supplier. It’s easy when you have a continual supply of electricity.
If you have a gas meter, it doesn’t have its own communications device. To do so would require a power supply to the gas meter – readily available on an electricity meter. Instead, the gas meter sends energy usage to the electricity meter every 30 minutes and therefore only has a long-life battery installed.
Getting access to the data
There are two ways to get access to real-time electricity and real-ish time gas usage data. Neither of them involve pairing your own device.
The best option is to buy a combined In-Home Display (IHD) and Customer Access Device (CAD) from Glow (Hildebrand Technology) sell a combined in-home display (IHD) and Customer Access Device (CAD) for around £65. This arrives already paired with your smart meter, and you connect it to your home wireless network, and it sends out data from your smart meter to an MQTT server (which can be on your local network too), ready for you to consume yourself. The device needs Internet access for firmware updates, but your data is kept locally.
The other option is to use intermediary such as Glowmarkt, who are a DCC Other User and can request your metering data from the Data Communications Company, then make it available to you. This is a straightforward process, although you need to go through an industry-mandated security process to prove you are requesting access to your data and not somebody else’s. They make your data available via their MQTT server, although it’s not at the same level of granularity as having your own IHD/CAD.
You can use the CAD as a simple IHD – it’s a lot prettier than the one supplied by my energy supplier (which I can still use). Electricity usage arrives every few seconds, with gas usage as and when the metering equipment makes it available.
The real power comes when you work with data in real-time, or at least as close to real-time as it’ll give you. Want to work out how much the tumble dryer cost to run? Or find out whether you’re OK with having your home a little cooler to save a bunch of energy?
The MQTT messages you receive are in JSON format, and contain data for three ‘clusters’ – Metering (0x0702), Prepayment (0x0705) and Device Management (0x0708). Each of these clusters has an attribute set – the Metering cluster presents the Reading Information Set (0x00), Formatting (0x03) and Historical Consumption (0x04). Finally, each attribute set has a set of key/value pairs. From this, you can decode that cluster 0x0708 (Device Management), attribute set 0x01 (Supplier Control Attribute Set) value 0x01 is the provider name.
Since the data is sent in JSON format, it’s quite easy to parse. If you want to dive straight in to the detail about what clusters and attribute sets are, the ZigBee Smart Energy Standard is available, although at 628 pages, it’s a heavy read.
The entire process was quick – the CAD arrived within a day or two of placing my order and was ready to use the moment I plugged it in. Getting my data in real-time took a little longer – it’s a manual process for the staff at Glow, but once it’s set up, that’s it.
The only problem is that there’s no formal support. For the first six months, the CAD disconnected itself from my WiFi network for no reason. Despite posting about my issue, there’s was no progress on it – but out of the blue, a firmware update arrived which fixed the issue.
Is the lack of formal support a problem? Likely not – unless you’re having an issue. Since the firmware update, I’ve had no problems with the IHD, other than a lack of time to play with and analyse the data.
Recommendation: go buy one!