The Twitt-a-watt

January 26, 2009 // 2:26 p.m.

Tags: #energy-usage #green #kill-a-watt #power-usage #twitt-a-watt #twitter #wattmeter #watt-meter

If you've always thought that the one thing missing from your Twitter feed was the ability to follow your house's electrical systems, an answer may be at hand thanks to a neat hack involving XBee radio chips and cheap power monitors.

Make Magazine's entry for the Core77 & Greener Gadgets Design Competition – via Hack a Day – the Tweet-a-watt is based on a design by Phillip Torrone and Limor Fried, in which the pair created a modified Kill-a-watt power monitoring system which allows for wireless communication back to a central computer.

Although the project was originally designed to produce a series of low-cost power monitoring systems that could be retrofitted to existing power systems, the Twittering functionality was added as a neat bonus. Costing around $50 per unit, the modified Kill-a-watt units use an XBee radio chip to transfer the power usage statistics every two seconds – a frequency limited by the requirement to charge a large capacitor to provide the required power to transmit.

The result – aside from a Twitter feed even less fascinating to follow than most – is a cheap and cheerful wireless power monitoring system which can transfer data to be used in graphing the power usage of your electronic devices. This data can then be used to chart your habits, and possibly even reflect changes that could reduce your energy usage – hence the 'green' aspect for the competition.

A full guide on the construction of the device is provided by its creators, and doesn't require anything too esoteric or complex – beyond the XBee modules, of course.

Tempted to build your own wireless power monitoring system, or is the project too much hassle for too little gain? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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