The SURE HOUSE is implementing tons of sensors to capture all sorts of data both inside and outside the home including measurements of energy consumption from our various appliances and energy production from our solar array. One of our side projects has been to develop a building integrated interface that, through physical interaction, can inform a homeowners as to their energy ‘budget’ and ‘expenses’. Some of our students went ahead to prototype this interface which will eventually make its way into the house and access data from the home server storing all the sensor data. Ultimately, we hope that by informing users of their habits and usage we can encourage them to use less energy.

Our systems for electric energy monitoring:

  • Cooking: Electric Range + Electric Oven + Refrigerator
  • Cleaning: Dishwasher + Clothes Washer + Clothes Dryer
  • Car: Electric Vehicle Charger
  • Light: Lighting
  • Entertainment: Television + Audio System
  • Water: Pumps + Hot Water Tank
  • Comfort: Heating + Ventilation + Air Conditioning + Fans
  • Solar: Solar Photovoltaic Energy Production

First Prototype

This is the first prototype that we’ve gotten to for the home energy interface. We will continue to play with interactivity and materials before we implement this in the house.

3D Model Cross Section

We modeled out the layout for the layers of laser cut acrylic, which make up the structure of the prototype, as well as modeling the placement of all electronic componentry.

Arduino Wiring Scheme

Essentially there is one input and two outputs in our Arduino-based system. The input comes from a rotary encoder, which registers whether it’s been turned clockwise or counterclockwise. Not to be confused with a potentiometer, a rotary encoder allows for continuous spin in both directions which is ideal for an interface such as this. Our outputs include both an LED lighting string to illuminate the various icons and LED light rings to display the various levels of energy in a gauge-like fashion.

Interface Logic

With a minimal interface such as this we wanted to get as intuitive as possible and are continuing to refine the clarity. The device allows you to scroll around the various system icons and the rings in the center display the respective data. White defines the allocated daily energy ‘budget’ for that given system, green is used to represent energy consumed under that ‘budget’ and red is used to represent energy consumed over that budget. The smaller inner ring displays your data from yesterday and the outer ring displays your data from today.

Adafruit Neopixel LEDs

We decided to use the Neopixel product line available from Adafruit. These LEDs each have red, green and blue light integrated in them allowing you to produce over 16 million color possibilities. 0-255 for 3 colors: 255^3 = 16,581,375

‘Daisy-Chaining’ Lights

Another nice thing about the Neopixel LEDs is the fact that you can wire them up in an arranged string much like a set of Christmas lights BUT with the Arduino you individually address and control each LED separately.

LED Rings

These LED rings are amazingly bright and we actually laser cut rectangles that go over each light to give it more of speedometer look.

Assembled Layers

Squeezed our layers together making sure to leave some access room behind for all the wiring. We also made sure to keep the profile thin enough so that it can be easily mounted inside our walls.

Home Integration

Just to get a feel for scale we modelled what this prototype might look like in one of the parts of the SURE HOUSE.

Soldering it Up

Soldered most of the electrical wiring to ensure strong connections were being made.

Peak into the Spaghetti

In the final version we will most definitely be addressing wire + cable management.