Building a counter for utility usage

Hi Guys, Noobie here. I don't own an Arduino yet, but I have been thinking about getting one to hack on a few stuff I want for a while.

The issue is, I am not sure if I can use the Arduino to do what I want and how I might go about approaching it.

I am very technical, and a Ruby developer. So doing any programming, once it is in a modern language I can figure it out.

But I have two projects I want to do, in different stages.

  • I want to track, in a granular way, all water usage in my home
  • I want to track, in a granular way, all electricity usage in my home

Re: water usage, basically I would like to do two major things: - Build a little device that I stick in every faucet in my house, and in the toilet bowl tanks, that keeps track of every gallon of water that is used. It doesn't even have to be WIFI connected. That would be IDEAL if it is, that way I don't have to disconnect it to get at the data. But if it's not, that's fine for now. I just want to be able to tell (for instance) if any of my faucets has a leak and uses 2X more water than every other one and the same applies to my toilet. It would be better if it is WIFI connected, now that I think about it, because I would just write a local Rails app that provides a RESTful endpoint for it to talk to, to dump the data and I will do the processing in the app. - Secondly, I am getting a water tank (say 1,000 gallons) and I would like to be able to see how much water is in there at any moment. Now, I know the ideal is to be able to tell the EXACT measurement and that's something I can build up to. But for now, I don't mind just having a little sensor that I place at say 500 gallons, and another at 250 gallons and another at 100 gallons that tells me when the water level drops below (or goes above) that level. If there is some way for me to do this without using 3 sensors and 3 sets of devices (but still being cheap), that would be even better. I just want to explore all options now.

Re: electricity usage: - Basically what I want to get to, eventually, is to be able to tell which outlets in my house are using the most power every month, and then from there specifically which devices. I don't mind starting at the most basic and primitive version and refining it and adding to get more and more info. But I want to at least start.

Given that I am a hardware noobie, but I can hold my own with building a computer and writing software:

  • what would you suggest my overall approach for the above be?
  • what would you suggest my first step/project be?

Thanks much for your time.

OpenEnergyMonitor is a project to develop open-source energy monitoring tools to help us relate to our use of energy, our energy systems and the challenge of sustainable energy.

The OpenEnergyMonitor system is an end-to-end open-source energy monitoring system.

JeeNode or Moteino are the two best ways to get a wireless network of small sensors spread around the house.

The flow sensor for each faucet will turn out to be expensive unless you can find a trick to measure flow indirectly.

Tank level sensing is pretty easy with an ultrasonic distance sensor at the top of the tank. I would start with this, plus one node attached to your PC to act as the master receiver for all the future nodes.

You will probably be able to read several sensors with an Arduino. The only issue may be the distance between sensors and the inconvenience of wiring.

The big obstacle IMHO will be the sensors - especially their cost. I would be amazed if what you want to do is cost effective. I would go further and suggest that there would be many better things you could do for the environment with your money and time. This is one of those projects where "just because you can doesn't mean you should"

Monitoring total water flow and electricity consumption at a single central location would be a different matter entirely. With all faucets off there should be no water flow. If you see the electricity "speedometer" running too fast you can investigate. You could build a database of typical hourly flows (for both) and have code to sound an alarm if something atypical happens.

...R PS I think you will find it very difficult to get a flow meter that can measure the tiny flow from a dripping faucet.