Review of Elios4you energy management system
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 June 2013 at 9:25 am
I'm often surprised about how much electricity my solar panels generate, even on a cloudy day. Despite it being June, I'm writing this wearing a thick fleece to keep warm, and looking out at around 90% cloud cover, yet my Elios4you device shows me that our 2kWp solar PV array has been steadily generating between 0.5 and 1kW of electricity all afternoon.
It also tells me that at this instant I am generating 480w, the house is consuming 250w and I'm exporting 230w. The colours of the arrows to and from the grid change: green for power exported, red for electricity purchased (see picture above). This means that you can tell at a glance whether or not it's a good time to do the washing, run the dishwasher or do some cleaning as economically as possible.
If I flick to the next screen it does the sums for me, telling how much electricity I'm buying from or selling to the grid. It also says that I "should consider turning on (or off) some appliances". It may be just me, but I find this quite annoying. I don't like being told what to do, and I really don't like being told what to do by machines. The intention is good, but it needs a bit of nuance. Could, not should, maybe; and how small an amount to you want to run around for. If I'm 0.05kW in credit, I'm not going to run downstairs and put the dishwasher on. Similarly, if I'm importing 0.1kW I'm unlikely to turn off my computer!
Also on the live screen, you can see figures for how much energy you've generated today, plus sold energy, consumed energy, self-consumed energy and purchased energy, all at a glance.
In the statistics section there are a series of graphs that show you breakdowns over your choice of period. There are tabs for 1, 7 and 30 days, 1 year, life of the system, and you can choose your own period to analyse. I'm not keen on spreadsheets, so the graphs are ideal for me, and the colour means you can see at a glance how much was generated, consumed, sold or purchased. If lots of numbers are your thing, you can upload the data via the device's 4cloud system.
Yesterday's graph showed that the big spikes in our electricity use came while cooking lunch and supper, but today there's also been a big spike in the afternoon which I can't explain. I'm also curious as to why there are two spikes in electricity use between midnight and 6am every night.
If you want to know what your home - or solar panels - are up to while you're away, you can get the information remotely via the cloud, either through the tablet that comes with it, on your smartphone.
Like many of these devices, the Elios4you works with CT clamps round cables. I got an electrician to fix it - as recommended by the manufacturers - and it sits neatly alongside my main fusebox. Setting up the tablet so that it talks to the base station via my internet wi-fi was quite a hassle. I couldn't get them to see each other - until of course I phoned up Greenologic for help, and everything worked smoothly first time!
Data monitored via CT clamps is often not very accurate. The manufacturers of Elios4you claim higher than average accuracy for the device, because it takes the voltage reference of the household (or commercial) building into account. I have been using it for three months and the figures on the device are very close to those on the meters: 4613 on the meter for purchased electricity; 4612.14 on the Elios4you).
As I'm currently using it, the Elios4you does much the same job as my Wattson Solar which I reviewed last year. For just a quick look to see whether it's a good time to do the washing, the Wattson is hard to beat. Its simple system of lights and numbers are easy to see from a distance, and it looks attractive on the shelf in the kitchen.
However, if I want to look at our usage in more detail than just headline figures, I have to manually upload the Wattson data to my computer once a month, which I rarely remember to do. This is where the Elios4you device comes into its own. With a wide range of graphs to flick through on the tablet (or your phone) it is both easier to use and more convenient.
Elios4you is designed as a platform for a number of other monitoring and control devices. Bolt ons include a power reducer for heating an immersion with surplus solar- or wind-generated energy, and a remote energy management system due in September. They can all be controlled from the one device.By Cathy Debenham
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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