Energy consumption monitoring is a hot topic right now - with energy companies increasing their rates constantly we're all aware of how much our energy bills are going up, up, up!
Nowadays it seems the only way to reduce your energy cost is to actually reduce your usage and this is where an energy monitoring system can help considerably. At Vesternet we've used a whole host of these systems over the years and we believe we've stumbled across a real gem with the Loop devices from Navetas.
We all love that feeling when un-boxing a new device and thankfully the Navetas devices don't disappoint, they're packaged well in neat blister packs which can be re-sealed if required - no more ripping the plastic to bits just to get the stuff out of the packet - LightwaveRF take note!
All Loop hardware has a nice quality feel to it and everything you need to install is included in the box. Both sensors are battery powered with battery life claimed to be greater than ten years which is pretty impressive.
The electric meter sensor is of the "current clamp" variety and has a nice latching action when attaching to your incoming electric supply cable. Current clamps aren't quite as accurate as other sensor types, but they do allow you to get instantaneous power consumption measurements which are the most useful readings when looking at reducing your electricity usage.
On the gas meter side the sensor is a "pulse counter" where it will count the pulses from compatible gas meters. This does mean that you need to check that your gas meter is compatible before buying. Even a cleaning cloth is included to clean off the meter glass before sticking on the sensor!
The base-station / hub part of the system features an Ethernet port for connecting into your broadband router and helpfully includes an additional switch port, so that you don't lose a port on your router. It also looks like it's been built to survive a nuclear attack, there's not much in the way of styling on any of the Navetas devices! To be fair though, they are going to be shut away in your gas meter enclosure and electric meter cupboard, so it's not like you're going to be sat staring at them all day long.
Off to see the Wizard
Since we're looking at kit designed to help with energy saving it's refreshing to see a lack of printed manuals - who reads them anyway?! A simple "go-to http://www.your-loop.com" message is printed on the packaging itself which leads you to the Loop on-line portal "Your-Loop" where further instructions can be found.
An incredibly user friendly interactive Wizard then leads you through the set-up and configuration process, taking things step by step and explaining each stage as you progress. The Loop "RX" (the base-station / hub) is registered first followed by the Loop "TX" (the electric meter sensor).
You then get to divulge a whole host of personal information including details of your energy provider and energy Tariffs in order to complete your account profile. We did have some initial concerns over this, but Navetas assured us that the data is held securely and it's only used to provide extremely accurate cost analysis of your energy usage.
After the initial Wizard was completed, we then added the gas meter sensor - this was again a simple process started from within the My Devices area of the Your-Loop web site.
Again, a really helpful Wizard leads the way, even showing highly detailed pictures of how to install the sensor based on your actual gas meter. This is a nice touch as it's an area where instructions from other systems often fall down leaving you to work out exactly what "attach the device to your meter" actually means!
The last step of the process requires turning on your heating for 5 - 30 minutes so that the system can pick up a revolution of your gas meter dial, so you'll probably want to install this part of the system during a cooler day if you don't fancy turning your heating on full blast during the height of summer!
Day to day experience
Once registered and set-up, you can explore the Your-Loop web UI. It's not as nice as something like Netatmo or Momit, but is functional and looks OK.
Assuming that you fully completed your profile and gave details of your energy supplier, costs and usage over the year, the system really comes into its' own now. Over the first few days, the system gets to know you and your energy usage patterns, gradually unlocking more functionality in the UI (for example the "compare against .... " sections).
The whole Your-Loop site is geared heavily towards saving money and has helpful hints and tips for reducing energy consumption and your electricity and gas usage averages are shown frequently throughout.
Your current electricity and gas consumption in kWh are displayed with a helpful "spend" graphic telling you just how much you're shelling out - this will be pretty accurate if you completed your profile with your tariff details. You can see daily, weekly, monthly, last three months and yearly calculations.
Data is also graphed, allowing you to visualise your energy usage and you can compare graphs against each other (electricity verses gas), against other people, or against yourself (previous day). Graphs can show you costs, kWh or CO2 over day, week, month, three months or year, all in all it's a very comprehensive analysis.
The UI also prompts you frequently with various messages and warnings, for example "At this time yesterday you'd spent £x.xx". This is a nice touch as it allows a simple and quick comparison. Within a few days of use we got a "Highest Ever Day Peak!" warning message, it's good to see that there is a large amount of intelligence in the system!
One shortcoming of the system in our opinion is the lack of native Apps. By this we mean that the current iOS and Android Apps are simply wrappers around the existing Your-Loop web site which is shown in a mobile-optimised fashion. These work OK, but we can't help but feel that dedicated Apps, especially for larger tablets, would help put the finishing touches to the Navetas system.
Budgets and Goals
This area of the Navetas UI lets you set daily, weekly or monthly budgets for both electricity and gas and daily, weekly or monthly goals for electricity savings (weekly and monthly are enabled once the system has enough data). This is pretty useful as it will encourage people to set targets and try to achieve them.
There's also a "low use test" which lets you set your electricity level when everything is turned off - you will then be given messages when you dip under this level or go above it. An improvement could be made here to allow you to set the low usage level manually if you already know it - otherwise in order to set it you are encouraged to "turn everything off as if you'd left the house or it's night time" - that's not something that you'd want to do during the day time when you need things on, and additionally, if you turn everything off, you won't have a PC on in order to follow the low-usage wizard :-)
Navetas have teamed up with the uSwitch web site too and after a period of 30 days it will unlock the Comparison part of the site. If you've already entered all your consumption details and information about your existing supplier, Navetas are in a good position after monitoring for 30 days to submit this data to uSwitch with a view to comparing your current energy costs with other suppliers.
Presumably Navetas will get a kick back from this if people switch supplier via their site but it's a pretty good feature none-the-less. We've already been prompted to do this ourselves so it's clear this pro-active approach works :-)
What else does the Navetas Loop system do?
That's pretty much it currently!
Navetas have told us that they are working on IFTTT integration and an API for real-time and 15 minute interval data extraction. There's no release dates on these functions yet, but at least they are on the roadmap and it's encouraging to see a manufacturer sharing this information up front!
Due to launch during the next few months will be the Loop Generation device - this is geared towards Solar PV micro-generation, we eagerly await this as we've recently had Solar PV installed ourselves :-)
Rounding out the utility metering will be a water meter sensor but although this is definitely planned for the future there's no further details at the moment.
Overall this is a pretty sweet system, it's accurate and has enough functionality to offer some real benefits over other simpler logging devices offered from other manufacturers.
If I was being critical I would say that the lack of native Apps and tablet versions are a bit of a let-down, but maybe those will improve in the future.
An API and IFTTT will be welcome additions to the system as these will allow it to be integrated into HA controllers like Vera and Fibaro giving them access to real-time data allowing logic to be created to make decisions based on that data, for example "if house is unoccupied and heating is off and gas usage increases, raise alarm as there might be a gas leak".
The Navetas Loop system is in stock NOW - order yours today and start reducing your energy consumption and bills!!!