SCE E-Save works to save energy conserving the environment

Sumanth Kalli

The E-Save team through the School of Computing and Engineering aims to improve energy usage by providing state-of-art technology. E-Save plans to introduce an efficient appliance network which monitors energy utilization and will teach low-income families to use energy wisely.

The E-Save team is comprised of Dr. Vijay Kumar, Dr. Yugyung Lee, Dr. Cory Beard, Dr. Praveen Rao and four UMKC graduate students. The goal is to educate the community through workshops and collaborative projects.

The E-Save team is combining profound expertise and knowledge from computer science and electrical engineering to build a system that guides the user in monitoring energy utilization. It is planning to embed a prototype of the system for testing. The system will collect data of each appliance in the house through sensors, send the collected information to digital storage and then display to the user analyzed data of their energy usage. This project started in 2011, and the E-Save team estimates it will complete a prototype within the next six months.

“We are using a set of sensors that receive and transmit data wirelessly using Zigbee in a range of 10 meters,” Beard said.

Zigbee is a specific device used to create personal area networks and for transmitting data. A receiver can be connected to a household machine to get data in digital format and later send to the user with suggestions on future energy consumption.

“Now the sensor set has cost us around $125 but in real time production this cost comes down drastically and even Zigbee has announced it is ready to work with any company on providing home automation protocols,” Beard said.

E-Save collaborated with the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and the Kansas City Power and Light District to further examine the behavior, practices and limitations of using energy wisely and the lack of energy management education for low income families. This interaction has helped E-Save to strategize how to educate low income families to make use of these benefits by using this technology.  This interaction proved beneficial for Paseo Academy students as well. They were given the opportunity to explore energy usage issues and the potential capabilities alternative sources of energy have to offer.

Over the course of several weeks, students were tasked with creating reports and presentations focusing on different real life experiences in using energy efficiently.  Three different projects were given to students that focused on energy efficiency within their school or grocery store, family home and apartment complex. Mentors from UMKC offered assistance to the students on these projects.. Some students said they began to realize the importance of turning off lights and appliances after use. Others students came up with songs, dramas and raps and elaborated on their plans to bring awareness to their entire school. The entire project was funded by KCP&L’s Department Of Energy grant.

 

After the E-Save team interacted with low income families, it decided to introduce several energy saving apps. “Users can download our app and they need to answer a questionnaire on the energy utilization and the devices they have, then they will be displayed with analyzed data that provides them with suggestions of using each device and an alternative also. In return, this will create good habits and discipline in using energy for families,” Kumar said.

The inclusion of many methods of monitoring energy usage should give the E-Save team an abundance of results.  Through the research, the team can explore other resources .

“Presently we are collecting real time data of energy consumed and cost of energy,” Lee said. “We look forward to analyzing, visualizing and providing a graphical interface on top of Google maps, which can clearly indicate the user of his energy usage. We are also working on wireless controlling of home appliances using mobile phone.”

 

The date given to users shows minutes to minute details of energy consumption.  Each appliance hooked up to the receiver will be analyzed, showing homeowners how much energy is being used at any given time.

Compatibility among various brand devices is a major concern in this project.

“Let us suppose we have a Panasonic Stereo system,  Panasonic CD Player and Panasonic DVD, then we can use only a single remote to operate the trio but if each of these devices are from different companies we will have to use different devices to operate them. However, we are building up a system that is brand independent,”  Kumar said.

E-Save has to overcome many challenges during this project.

“Collecting real time data and hunting for devices that suit our requirements, configurable in all aspects are the major challenges we faced in this project,” Kumar said.

Funds are also a major concern, according to Kumar.

In future, the E-Save team is planning to invite some low income families to its lab and present tips for energy saving and also start installing  the system in several houses.

“Effective education is with real touch not with television, advertisements or pamphlets and we would like to provide effective education by meeting with them,” Kumar said.