Category Archives: utilities

Monitoring energy usage with Network Owl

Written by stephen gale

We have just installed a Network Owl to monitor our energy usage.  This monitors the power being used on our incoming electricity supply and uploads the data to the internet.  We can then monitor power usage from anywhere and (pretty much) in real time.

We have a 3 phase supply and are using a Network Owl and Owl Intuition-lc.  This solution is intended for home and light commercial premises that are on a three phase supply.  The hardware is under £100 and it took less than 30 minutes to set it up.

Creating an online account to view the data is a little quirky, but if you follow the instructions carefully it doesn’t take long.

Having installed a ground source heat pump, all of our heating and domestic hot water is essentially electric albeit aided by extracting heat out of the ground.  So we thought it would be important to having an understanding of the amount of power that we are using.  This solution looks promising and I am somewhat intrigued by the numbers.  By combining the data from the Network Owl with data from our weather station and internal temperature sensors, we should be able to get a reasonable understanding of the heat performance of the house.

Once you have the network owl up and running, you can view your power usage in real time via the web. I only installed it yesterday, so it is a little sparse in terms of data.

Once you have the network owl up and running, you can view your power usage in real time via the web. I only installed it yesterday, so it is a little sparse in terms of data.

As well as getting an overview of power usage, you can also see more detailed graphs as well as downloading the data into Excel (CSV format).

As well as getting an overview of power usage, you can also see more detailed graphs as well as downloading the data into Excel (CSV format). Our online weather station also captures weather data as well as monitoring the internal house temperature.

This is a small device that connects to your router (Ethernet connection on the right, power on the left).  It connects wirelessly to the sensor box with the  three sensors that are clamped onto the incoming 3 phase supply.  It then uploads the date to the internet where you can access it online.

This is a small device that connects to your router (Ethernet connection on the right, power on the left). It connects wirelessly to the sensor box with the three sensors that are clamped onto the incoming 3 phase supply. It then uploads the date to the internet where you can access it online.

The sensor box is installed in the meter cupboard with three sensors - one onto each of the incoming live supplies (we have a 3 phase supply).  I may move the sensor box and sensors to cables inside the building as it will be warmer  and kinder to the batteries (as well as improving the signal strength to the Network Owl).

The sensor box is installed in the meter cupboard with three sensors – one onto each of the incoming live supplies (we have a 3 phase supply). I may move the sensor box and sensors to cables inside the building as it will be warmer and kinder to the batteries (as well as improving the signal strength to the Network Owl).

The sensor clamps are very easy to install and only loosely clamp onto the cables.  You just need to remember that this is a live supply that you are dealing with!

The sensor clamps are very easy to install and only loosely clamp onto the cables. You just need to remember that this is a live supply that you are dealing with!

Old water connection terminated

Written by stephen gale

The existing water connection was in a neighbour’s field about 200m from our property.  A single water meter fed all three of the original cottages.  The water meter was located here because in the 1980’s when it was installed, this was as far as the water main reachedre is

The problem with this location is that it is on someone else’s property and we are responsible for the pipework from the meter to our house (even if someone else digs it up).

So we decided to have a new water connection.  Cost? About £600.  When I applied for the new connection, I assumed that this would include disconnecting the old connection.  I was wrong.  When I asked, it was going to cost around £1,000 to remove the old connection.  That is more than the new connection itself!  A large part of the disconnection cost is due to the traffic signals that are required on the road while the works are completed.

We told Yorkshire Water that they could leave the old connection there.  We then had our plumber cap off the old pipework.  This would stop anyone from accidentally turning the water supply back on.

Last week, I talked to Yorkshire Water about the old meter and it turns out that there is no charge for the old meter – it will be associated with our account, but this is no cost associated with it.  Result!  On this basis, I don’t know why I would have paid to have it removed.  It isn’t inconveniencing me – in fact, it is on someone else’s land.

The old water meter (left above) is situated down a manhole about 200m from our property. It is actually located in someone else's field.  We are responsible for the pipework from the water meter to our house.

The old water meter (left above) is situated down a manhole about 200m from our property. It is actually located in someone else’s field. We are responsible for the pipework from the water meter to our house.

We have now cut the water pipe and capped it off.  This just leaves about 300mm of pipe from the water meter to the cap.  This will prevent any problems should someone accidentally turn the supply back on.

We have now cut the water pipe and capped it off. This just leaves about 300mm of pipe from the water meter to the cap. This will prevent any problems should someone accidentally turn the supply back on.

 

Power cut

Written by stephen gale

The storms yesterday took its toll on our electricity supply.  We seemed to be operating on a reduced voltage from about 3:30pm yesterday afternoon.  By 6:30pm, we had lost power altogether.  It was finally restored at around 2am.

In the meantime, the local pub is always a good refuge in a power cut.  It must be what the pub was like a hundred years ago.

The only light is from the emergency exit sign, the open fire and a few candles.  But the pumps still work!

The only light is from the emergency exit sign, the open fire and a few candles. But the pumps still work!

New electricity connection

Written by stephen gale

We need  three phase supply for our ground source heat pump.  The supply was installed today and the existing overhead cables and the supplies to the two previous properties were recovered.

We dug the trench from the front to the rear of the property.  Do make sure that you read the details carefully about how the trench – and the conduit – need to be laid.  It took the best part of a day to pull the cable through, connect it to the supply on the pole and make the joint into the cable for the house.

We need a three phase supply for the ground source heat pump.  Fortunately for us, the pole outside the property had a three phase supply.

We need a three phase supply for the ground source heat pump. Fortunately for us, the pole outside the property had a three phase supply.

How do I find my MPAN number?

Written by stephen gale

It is worth checking with your electricity carrier – not the supplier (e.g. E.on, EDF, etc), but the carrier – in our case, Northern Power Grid.

Via the Northern Power Grid website (http://www.northernpowergrid.com/) it is possible to get the MPAN number for a property together with the current supplier.

Dealing with the Utilities

Written by stephen gale

This can get pretty frustrating and is something that is often overlooked when planning a renovation.

Are you going to need a new connection? Or moving an existing meter? Or require a new service? Then you had better plan it in and make sure that you investigate any costs involved.  Some activities have no charge (e.g. removing or relocating some types of meters), however, others (e.g. new water connection) come with a significant cost.

First step is to work out who you should be talking to!  For gas and electricity, the carriers (e.g. Northern Power Grid, Northern Gas Networks) are different from the suppliers (e.g. British Gas, Eon).  While the carriers install the pipes and wires to the property, it is the suppliers who provide (and move) the meters.

We had to move the electricity meter as well as changing it to a three phase meter.  Bizarrely, British Gas provide the electricity (and not the gas as we had it disconnected) to the property and I had to arrange for them to move the meter.  The electricity supply to the property was organised via Northern Power Grid.

The main problem with dealing with the utilities is getting through to the right department.  Once you have done this, the rest is usually a breeze and, contrary to public opinion, I have always found the individuals who I deal with as being nothing but very helpful.

Rather than dialling the main number for the Utility (in the case of British Gas 0800 048 0202), search on their website for what you are looking for (e.g. “move a meter”) and see if you can find another number.  Today, the main number said there was a 25 minute wait to talk to the next available operator.  A quick search online revealed another number 0800 691 1701 that got me through to the correct department.  It was answered almost immediately.

Do make sure that you have all of your details to hand.  The MPAN number is critical in identifying which electricity meter is being discussed and which supplier is currently responsible for it.  Most of the suppliers have access to a national database and can look this up for you, if you don’t already have it.  Alternatively, you can contact the carrier for your area and they will be able to supply it (here is the list of the contact numbers for all of the UK carriers).

New water connection

Written by stephen gale

Our extension water connection comes across a field and under the road.  The water meter is 200m away and we are responsible for the pipework from the water meter until it enters our property.  The reason for the remote location of the meter is that the water main only came this far up the road when the water was installed in the early 1980’s.  Now the water main runs right past the house.

A new connection cost us around £800, but Yorkshire Water wanted £1,000 to remove the old meter.  The solution was to turn the stop tap off to the old meter and carrying on pay a reduced monthly charge.

It only took a couple of hours to connect it all up.  We had dug the trenches and installed the water pipes into the property.  We are now a two tap family – one next to the polytunnel and one hanging out of the Utility room window!

The new water connection was installed yesterday.  This means that we can capped off the old water main that runs across a neighbour's field!  Apparently, it will be a couple of days before they return to replace the tarmac.

The new water connection was installed yesterday. This means that we can capped off the old water main that runs across a neighbour’s field! Apparently, it will be a couple of days before they return to replace the tarmac.

We have installed a temporary tap on the end of the new water supply.  This means that the builders don't have to tramp in the house to get water.

We have installed a temporary tap on the end of the new water supply. This means that the builders don’t have to tramp in the house to get water.

Trench for water and electric

Written by stephen gale

We are going to be moving both the water and electric connections around to the new utility room.  This was something that got missed off the original budget and can be a significant cost.

We have decided to dig the trench now.  Once the new extension is built, the access would be severely limited by this trench.  So we are going to do it now, lay the pipework and fill it back in before the porch is built. 

We are also going to put connections into the outbuildings for both water (for the orchard and polytunnel) and electric for the sheds (lighting and power).

This was completed in a day.  Probably another day's work will get it to the utility (!) room.  We will put a connection into the outbuildings for both water and electric.

This was completed in a day. Probably another day’s work will get it to the utility (!) room. We will put a connection into the outbuildings for both water and electric.

The new water and electric connections will go in this trench.  It is cheaper for us to dig it and put in the conduits rather than the utility companies doing it. The tarmac is cut with a floor saw and then a mini digger is used for the trench.

The new water and electric connections will go in this trench. It is cheaper for us to dig it and put in the conduits rather than the utility companies doing it. The tarmac is cut with a floor saw and then a mini digger is used for the trench.

The cost of moving utilities: Water

Written by stephen gale

The water meter is about 200m away.  It is in a field on the other side of the road.  To make matters worth, the meter has very small numbers and is 1.5m down a manhole. 

This causes us a bit of a problem;

  • You can’t read the meter unless you trespass on someone else’s land;
  • You can’t read the numbers on the meter unless you go down the manhole head first and leave you legs dangling in the air;
  • If there is a leak in the pipe between the meter and our property, we are liable even though it isn’t on our land.

All in all, a poor situation.  Talking to Yorkshire Water, it would appear that the meter was installed there (in the 1970’s) because at that point the water main didn’t come any further up the road.  So that explains the odd position of the current water meter.

Yorkshire Water are not interested in moving the meter.  However, the water main does now come up the road, so it is possible to get a new water connection.  Cost? Estimated to be between £1,000 and £2,000 depending on whether they have to close off the road and put in traffic control.  I have paid £100 for them to come up and do a survey so that we can get a more accurate cost.

200m down the road in the footpath you will find the stopcock for the water.  A blue mark on the drystone wall marks it's position.  Apparently, in the late 1970's when this was installed the water main only came this far up the road.

200m down the road in the footpath you will find the stopcock for the water. A blue mark on the drystone wall marks it’s position. Apparently, in the late 1970’s when this was installed the water main only came this far up the road.

On the other side of the drystone wall is an inspection chamber.  Lift the lid and you will find a water meter about 1.5m down.  Unfortunately, the numbers are very small so reading the meter can be a challenge.  The house is just behind the small tree in the centre of the photo.

On the other side of the drystone wall is an inspection chamber. Lift the lid and you will find a water meter about 1.5m down. Unfortunately, the numbers are very small so reading the meter can be a challenge. The house is just behind the small tree in the centre of the photo.

The cost of moving utilities: Gas

Written by stephen gale

There were two gas meters on the property.  One in each of the properties.  Both of the cottages were centrally heated using a gas boiler.

As with the electricity supply, the electricity suppliers are responsible for the meters (and removing them).  The gas carrier (Northern Gas Networks, in our case) is responsible for getting the gas to the meters.

I contact British Gas and E.on to remove the two gas meters.  This only took 2-3 weeks and there was no cost associated with removing the meters.  However, there is a charge for disconnecting the gas main from the meter supply.  We did to get the two gas standpipes from the front of the property.  The cost? £802.

If we decide that we want to reconnect the gas (not sure why we would), there is a connection charge.  This is likely to be significant and takes 10-12 weeks.  This would provide us with the opportunity to move the new supply around to the utility room.  However, the only use we have for has would be if we have a gas hob.  Which we aren’t planning to do.

One of the two gas standpipes remaining in place now the gas meters have been removed.  This will be removed when the gas main is capped off.

One of the two gas standpipes remaining in place now the gas meters have been removed. This will be removed when the gas main is capped off.