RHDS Final Report — What we accomplished

Executive Summary:

We undertook this challenge with a thought in mind; “Imagine being able to reduce your home energy bill, increase comfort, and create a healthier living environment on the planet”. Yes we had our share of skeptics come forward. Nevertheless we pursued our goal. The motivational factor for us to enter this competition was the following statement found on the Challenge: main page: “At Eclipse we are developing a community of IOT projects that make it easy for developers to build IoT solutions”. That was enough for us to enter the IOT challenge and find out for ourselves.


We are pleased to report that, based on our experience, indeed it’s a valid point. The RHDS project, from our perspective, is a success and was relatively easy to assemble. Thanks in part to many sources of available open source software components with examples.

It was not all smooth sailing, mainly due to numerous learning curves. That

aside, we were able to build a working IOT solution in the time frame allowed. 

RHDS is a fully functional, scabable and stable system which moves 
raw data from a group of Sensors to the cloud for processing and presentation. 
That was project goal number "Build an IOT solution". Please see our blogs for 
a full  functional overview. overview.

Project goal number two was “put the IOT solution to work”. The use case is to help Homeowners and/or Service organization monitor,self-diagnose and optimize energy consumption related to Heating and Cooling and thereby reduce their homes carbon footprint. Our aim was to prove it is possible to apply Building Science physics to an IOT solution to reproduce the result of a home Energy Audit (EA). Presently, an EA is the established method to determine a households energy consumption and carbon footprint. We are please to report that it is possible to reproduce the measurements of an EA using IOT components and the results can be see here. Following are the EA numbers we were to reproduce. Please see our third blog to find out about Energy Audits and what these represent. The key numbers in an EA report are as follows:

  • Design Heat Loss
  • Estimated Annual Space Heating Energy Consumption
  • Estimated Green House Gas emissions
  • Air Changes per hour (ACH)

We are pleased to report that we are able to reproduce the EA numbers with a high degree of accuracy. RHDS operates as a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) Energy Audit system. This means that the average home owner can, if they so choose to, learn more about their Heating and Cooling energy use and lowering their homes carbon footprint. We believe that the system can be built with $200 or less. A one time Energy Audit can set someone back $300 – $500. RHDS at a price point of around $200 has a solid  Return On Investment (ROI).

We did have a third goal for RHDS which perhaps in hind sight was a bit ambitious. We wanted to implement a Device Management (DM) capability for my Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) unit; “the furnace”. Attempting to interface directly with my homes HVAC system was not a good idea. After several consultation with those in the know we were advised against proceeding without input from the manufacturer. So we decided not to go beyond basic connectivity, between Leshan and Wakaama, as a DM proof of concept. For the time being we can demonstrate that Device Management is potentially feasible with respect to managing an HVAC unit. More work needs to be done to make DM a reality.

But wait. While trying to interface to the HVAC we ended up in an interesting scenario. With all the back and forth with different HVAC specialist, etc, we had a “break thru” and serendipity happened. RHDS evolved into a totally passive system. This is big news! RHDS can be implemented without the need to connect to anything other than the TI sensortags. By using analytics RHDS can follow and approximate the HVAC on and off cycle. No need to connect to the “furnace”, which means RHDS really is very close to a “plug and play” type system. As a side note, approximating the HVAC on/off cycle helped us to provide value added metrics and go beyond the basic EA reporting.

On the topic of “plug and play”, we are also pleased to report a second break thru. Sensors can be added at will. KURA will automatically scan and pick up the BLE TI sensortags and send the captured data, via MQTT, up to the cloud, see here. This was completely unexpected. We thought manual intervention would be required when adding Sensors; ie. having to adjust a config file somewhere. Turns out not. Thank you KURA!

I mentioned serendipity earlier. This happened when we began to network with HVAC specialist. They said, “you can do what!”. We have entered into encouraging discussions with two organization to see what can be done to move things forward. “Sensoring” up a home seems to be of interest for a variety reasons! IOT makes things happen.

The remainder of this report will focus on specific details we were asked to discuss. I also go thru the User Interface in detail in the attached video

Project Description:

What is RHDS?:

RHDS is SMART ENERGY IOT solution for performing Residential Home Diagnostics. The Solution allows Homeowners and/or Service organization to monitor, self-diagnose and optimize energy consumption related to Heating and Cooling. The system goal is to promote efficient energy management at the consumer level in support of Smart Cities which are greener and more sustainable.

In essence RHDS performs a near real-time home Home Energy Audit on a minute by minute basis

Our Goal:

Our opinion is that a diagnostic system, like RHDS, in the hands of a homeowners would allow them to make more informed home improvement decisions, perhaps improvements that are more adaptable and responsive to seasonal weather change. The obvious net benefits would be to drive down energy cost, improve comfort and reduce their carbon output footprint.

retrofit work can result in energy savings and a carbon reduction of potentially 60-80% — Source

The Challenge we All face — Long Term Sustainability:

In a typical home, heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use, making it the largest expense for most home owners. Simultaneously, governments are raising the bar for compliance with energy standards and reduction in carbon footprints. Calling in an expert to perform an energy audit can cost between $300- $500 per visit.

the average person in an industrialized country has a carbon footprint of 11 tons of CO2 per year. However, the estimated target for long-term sustainability is only 2 tons of CO2 per year! — source

Our Solution:

RHDS, as an IOT Open Source / Open technology initiative which tracks the efficiency of a home’s Building Envelope (thermal performance) by consistently measuring the time it takes to heat a building up to a given temperature above the outside temperature; vice versa for cooling. Using various, well known, Building Science formulas for calculating Heat loss thru a Building envelope., RHDS is able to, in near real-time, calculate and present the Key Metrics of a professional Energy Audit.

Some of the benefits of visualizing “Heat Loss” are as follows:

  1. Assist a home owner to lower their Home Carbon Footprint;
  2. Determine a households suitability for retrofit work.
  3. Validate energy savings retrofit work thru “after the work is done” performance improvement monitoring;
  4. Verify HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system sizing, an over or undersized condition based on actual performance;
  5. Detect HVAC and supporting control systems operational faults such as no heat;
  6. Improve homeowner comfortability;
  7. Education. Help people understand the value of using Smart Home products towards lowering energy consumption and improving the indoor environment.

Technical Details

data-flowThe entire system has been documented in our last four (4) blogs. We will not at this time rehash all the technical aspects since it’s readily accessible. Please see the following blogs for the System Overview and Technical aspects. We address the following topics:

System overview and Technical details outlined include:

  • Introduction, Goals and Objectives
  • Components and Installation
  • Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) aspects
  • Data Warehousing
  • User Interface (UI)
  • Sensor Placement

Blog #1: Introducing the Residential Home Diagnostic System (RHDS)

In our first blog we out outline our motivation for entering the challenge and layout our approach on “how to” deliver a working RHDS in the time allotted.

Blog #2 Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part 1)

In the second blog we discuss all the “Bits & Pieces” of the system, the hardware and software components, and how to put them together to build the base RHDS platform.

Blog #3 Energy Audit — Let’s get some baseline data for the project

For the third blog we go thru how an actual an actual Home Energy Audit (EA) is done and show the Home Owner version of the EA report produced by the HOT 2000 EA application. The HOT 2000 report served as the “baseline” reference we used to validate the empirical data produced by RHDS.

Blog #4 Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part II)

The fourth blog covers in detail the system architecture, data flow model, User interface and much, much more. Here you will read about how the system works form end to end, from gathering data from the Sensor, to moving the data to the Cloud, to accessing the data via a public URL, to the Presentation layer User Interface (UI)

Public REST URL (live):AWS REST API (JSON Data)

User Interface (live): Working RHDS System (best viewed w/ Safari browser)

What did we learn?:

  • Don’t listen to those that say it can’t be done.
    • When we started the project we really didn’t know if we could do it. You have to believe in what you are doing.
  • The value of Blogging.
    • No of us on the team ever ran a blog before. As the project moved forward the benefits became obvious. Beyond just sharing our progress, the blog took on a unique role of serving both as a Documentation resource for the team. It’s amazing how many times I’ve gone back to our own Blog for Info.
  • Look forward to success.
    • We experience several moments of doubt throughout the project. Giving up is easy, treading on is hard. Keep the  project vision in mind and look toward success.
  • The quality and support behind Open source / Open technology is impressive.
    • I can’t say enough of how we appreciate the help we received to resolve our technical issues from the unsung heroes working the Forums. The fact that I’m in a position to write  this blog speaks to how valuable they are!
  • The small Team Effect:
    • We only had three people on the team. What we were able to accomplish as a team working together speaks for it self. You don’t always need an army to make things happen. Small teams properly motivated can be made to work.

What Open Source and Open Technology did we use?:

  1. Eclipse (software): Acted as our Integrated Development Environment (IDE). All development was done using Eclipse IDE.
  2. Eclipse KURA: System Gateway. Performs the function of collecting senor data and then pushing it the data to the cloud.
    1. Implementation details can be viewed at: Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part II)
  3. Eclipse Leshan: OMA LWM2M server for Device Management: 
    1. Implementation details can be viewed at:Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part 1)
  4. Eclipse Wakkaama: LWM2M Client/Server for Device Management:
    1. Implementation details can be viewed at:Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part 1)
  5. Freeboard.io: a rapid prototyping real-time IOT dash board User Interface; Our UI
    1. Implementation details can be viewed at: Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part II)
  6. Mongodb: NoSQL cross-platform documented-oriented database; provided Data warehouse functionality:
    1. Implementation details can be viewed at: Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part II)
  7. json-server: Rapid pro-typing JSON REST API.
    1. Implementation details can be viewed at:Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part 1)
  8. Protocols:
    1. MQTT, CoAP, LWM2M. Implementation details can be viewed at: Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part 1); Project Update — Let’s Build a RHDS System from Scratch (part II)

Note: We did use COTs solutions: Amazon Web Services (AWS) for the Cloud storage and REST API., and Texas Instruments Sensor tag cc2650 for Temperature and Humidity data.

What is the applicability of RHDS to a specific Industry?

Smart Cities: “Lower the Carbon Foot print of a home.. In essence help city mangers to meet their climate change targets by empowering  home owners and property managers to do their part”

Smart Grid: “Improve the uptake rate for Utility Demand Management initiatives by providing visibility into a homes real-time energy use. Presently uptake on these programs is low due to homeowner skepticism. With RHDS both utility companies and their customers can visualize the impact of Demand Management initiatives on a case by case basis. In other words, both parties can see whats’ going on when the utility company decides to turn off the heat or air conditioning to protect the Energy Grid during Winter and Summer peaking periods”

Smart energy: “Visualize energy use. The first step towards implementing any sort of a strategy to use a renewable energy source is to better understand actual seasonal energy consumption. To this end RHDS can assist by tracking the day to day energy demand of a home. This information would play a key role in helping to “right-size” alternative energy sources”

Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning:

  • “A tool to assist with reducing the time it takes to do heat load calculation. This would improve upon the conventional method today which is a lengthy manual process and quite often not done which leads to improper HVAC sizing, increased energy use, higher carbon footprint”
  • “Opportunities to improve home comfort by visually sharing with the home owner their actual indoor environmental conditions”
  • “Implementing IOT device Management to monitor HVAC operation. This would lead to reduced truck rolls, better customer support and increased system up time”

Home Retrofit Industry: a tool to assist home renovation companies to encourage home owners to implement; weatherization, insulation, window doors and exterior wall improvements”

Education for Students and Home Owners: “provide real-time information, at home., which can be used to better understand and learn about the impact of behavioral choice issues related to home heating and Cooling. At present this information eludes most home owners as it;s simply not available to them without  having an expert perform an Energy Audit. This is not only expensive but impractical as there are simply not  enough Auditors to go around to each and every home. This situation is ripe for an IOT solution (RHDS) to enter the picture”

Final Words:

Thank you to the IOT challenge organizers and other Team participants for their encouragement and support throughout the challenge.

Climate change is real. The bar for compliance with energy standards and reduction in carbon footprints is real and is rising. Thanks to ongoing Internet of Things (IOT) initiatives, we can do our part to lesson the effect of climate change at a price point affordable to all. The task of lowering the average families carbon foot print seems overwhelming but it brings to light the opportunity before us to change things starting right at home..

Please support our fight to slow climate change and support our project, and remember:

“The Changes We Make At Home Today Will Have a Global Impact on the World Tomorrow”

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