Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weather station setup

The starting point of the whole system is a Maplin Weather Station. There's a few different ones on the market, but unless you're really serious, I think the critical thing your going to need is a wireless transmission from the outdoor weather station to your indoor base-station, and a USB connection from the base-station to your PC. The actual weather stations themselves to vary wildly in quality and performance, typical features to look out for are:

* temperature
* humidity
* rainfall
* wind-speed

Ideally, the thermometer should be inside a stevenson screen, to ensure readings don't get distorted by sunlight, and you want to make sure that you position your wind-gauge as high as possible to avoid wind-turbulance:

To fix mine, I got a 1.8m aerial from Screwfix, along with a mounting kit (that I can't find now), and attached it to my shed wall with the biggest coach-bolts I could find:

Early experiments siting the external thermometer/transmitter suggested that the plastic stevenson screen was absolutely useless, as I could identify the points at which the sun went behind, then re-appeared from the abandoned office block at the end of my street, by the sharp falls and rises in temperature.

Luckily, there's a massive rat-infested ivy swarming over my shed, and I managed to tuck the transmitter into there, keeping it sheltered from the heat:

This transmits a signal to the supplied base station, connected to an old laptop with a USB cable:

The supplied Easyweather software seems to be universally regarded as useless, not least because a memory leak guarantees it will crash if left running for any length of time, not ideal for this kind of software.

Instead, the entire world seems to love Cumulus from Sandaysoft:

With very little customisation, this can export your weather data to any number of formats, eg:
* a standard website
* twitter
* WeatherUnderground
* PWS Weather

Weather data, just like energy consumption data, always makes more sense when brought together and compared, and the last 2 sites particularly make an excellent job of this.

But come on, just uploading to somebody else's site just isn't exciting enough, no matter how well designed and useful it is - how do we get the raw data out so we can deal with it ourselves?

(to be continued ...)

Friday, February 12, 2010

From console to communergy

It's been almost a year since I wrote anything here. I got distracted, and I gave the link to a few people and never heard anything from them ever again - not quite the intention.

Anyway, I've been working on producing a personal home energy tracking system, since I acquired a Maplin Weather Station, and started to wonder how some of the things I've been learning on Open University environment and technology courses could be put to some use. I'd done a couple of spreadsheet and footprint exercises, but what has really been happening in our household energy consumption?

And how did I get from here:

to here

I've put this off for about a year, but I'll try and go through all the stages, not least so I don't forget why I've made some of the decisions that seemed to make sense at the time. In the meantime, you can see my personal home-monitoring site here , and the source code for the multiple-user version is here.

I'll try to stop complaining about Slough Borough Council's approach to renewable energy as well.