How-To Geek

Monitor Your Home Power Usage by Building a DIY Power Meter Reader

Commercial meter readers are expensive; this DIY hack allows you to cheaply monitor your power consumption for a greener tomorrow (and, realistically, a much lower bill).

Paul discovered that his digital power meter sent out a pulse of IR light every time a watt-hour of power was consumed. He built a simple monitoring assembly in a project box that consisted of a small circuit board and a photo transistor. It’s a clever and inexpensive hack (it cost him less $20).

You can check out the details of his build at the link below. Don’t have a digital meter? Don’t worry, we didn’t want to leave anyone out in the cold. We found this build guide for an analog meter (the kind with the electro-mechanical disc that spins).

IRMeterMon [via Hack-A-Day]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/13/11

Comments (6)

  1. FightTheRight

    Of course the meter doesn’t belong to you an the power company will most likely come along and jerk the meter reader off of their meter thinking your trying to hack their meter in some way.

  2. Apmz

    Most modern meters are digital and include a transmitter not unlike a cell phone. Your meter reader doesn’t need to eyeball your meter, he reads it from down the road within range of his receiver.So I doubt anyone will look at your meter for several years, unless it is uncommonly low. They don’t care about uncommonly high ( of course ) unless it is so high they suspect a Metal Halide bank of lights for your basement garden.

  3. Anak

    We have an analog meter with our power company here in Pennsylvania, and they send a high frequency signal back through the power grid to calculate our usage.

    It could be compared to the ISP sending DSL over the phone lines.


    Our supplier just installed the electronic meters and we can get daily email updates on consumption, along with projected monthly bills, etc. I don’t think we’ll see a meter reader until the meter fails.

    It’s possible a meter reader might rip your device off, but more than likely, he will report it to his company’s appropriate department where they have folk specialized in detecting and eliminating theft of power. Worst case it someone might show up and ask you about it. If you were really worried about it, you could leave a note nearby in a plastic waterproof sleeve explaining what it is and that you would be glad to show them what it is, how it works.

    I taught folks how to remove and install meters for residential and small commercial and am fairly familiar with at least one companies procedures. The reader hasn’t got time to waste trying to figure out what the box is….he’s got to get so many meters read per day and all he’s going to do is write it down in his book. (Well, it’s not a book….it’s a computer) and let someone else worry about it.

  5. Apmz

    To: Anak
    That sounds extremely expensive to the Power Utility. Depending on the amount of customers on the grid and I am sure they have it quad sectioned, it still is very expensive to send data over high tension lines. The lines are 60hz or in some cases 120 to 300 hz, so they are breaking it into numerous mhz addresses. I would be very skeptical of this metering method.
    Lots of factors are involved: humidity, proximity of other lines, distance from the main Transmission (High Voltage) line and substation, this would all determine frequency.
    A close distribution line (Low voltage –under 40K ) would allow EMF to envelope other lines.
    Ask them and see if they can explain how it is secure and has individuality.

  6. Anak

    To: Ampz

    “Ask them and see if they can explain how it is secure and has individuality.”
    Thought provoking questions I will check on it Monday and let you know their response.

    I am not sure if I have a ‘smart meter’ or not, PPL calls it an ‘advanced meter’. when doing a search though it comes up as ‘smart’.
    I will have to get on our web page with PPL to see if I can find more information.

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