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eco-wand saves heating energy at home & work. It's not magic's video poster
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A magic wand won't shrink your utility bills but the eco-wand can. Attach it to a computer USB port & see the economy & comfort advice. Read more

Glasgow, UK Hardware
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A magic wand won't shrink your utility bills but the eco-wand can. Attach it to a computer USB port & see the economy & comfort advice.

Glasgow, UK Hardware
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Alex Gardiner
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Alex Gardiner

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About this project

How does the eco-wand ComfoMeter help save energy?

The ComfoMeter measures the temperature and humidity around you and the eco-wand software on your PC advises on the most economic comfortable ideal temperature taking into account your clothing and the airflow around you. It shows how far from ideal you are and what steps you could take to save money without becoming uncomfortable.

The ComfoMeter help you save money and reduce your carbon footprint. You can possibly pay back over one winter or summer in a hot climate. If you reduce your thermostat setting by just 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F), you reduce your heating bill by 7% - but there is no point in being uncomfortable. Following the ComfoMeter advice, you may be able to do better than this.

The eco-wand system also allows you to analyze historic data by acting as a low cost easily deployed data logger.

Any home or office anywhere in the world that has heating or cooling could benefit from having an eco-wand ComfoMeter system added to their computer.

What actually is the eco-wand system?

The hardware looks like a memory stick and plugs into a USB port on your computer.

Production prototype ComfoMeter cased and uncased with a USB ball extension lead
Production prototype ComfoMeter cased and uncased with a USB ball extension lead
ComfoMeter with eco-wand software running under Vista
ComfoMeter with eco-wand software running under Vista

 The main power of the system is in the software.


Software

The power of the system is in the software. The Figures below are all actual screenshots.

There are 2 main scenes, the Comfort Meter and the History Chart.

Comfort Meter

Comfort Meter Scene
Comfort Meter Scene

At the top it shows the current value for temperature and humidity. Down the middle are the conditions you enter and the advice.  Along the bottom is the economy and comfort indicators and the Ideal Temperature. When this screen-shot was taken, the room was 0.3 degrees C above ideal so I could save energy by turning the thermostat down by this amount. As I was not Very Heavily clothed, I could save more by putting more clothes on and turning the thermostat down even further.

The bar meter display also shows maximum/minimum markers and High and Low alarms on each channel.

You don't need all the information all the time so I have provided a summary scene which has the information you need for energy saving with comfort

Summary Bar
Summary Bar

Associated with the Comfort Meter scene is the Comfort Zone scene. This allows a bit more understanding of the relationships which make up comfort and economy

Comfort Zone scene
Comfort Zone scene

  History Chart

This provides a view of how your heating/cooling system works over time.

My office history over 2 days
My office history over 2 days

 I do tend to keep my office quite cool but you can see how the room keeps it heat overnight even though the outside temperature was about 5 degrees C on these nights.  There is no heating overnight.

The system log allows this data to be analysed off-line in any way you require,

The other display options

From the screen-shots you can see that there are another 3 display tabs.

Panel Meter gives you the current values in big digits for showing to a class

Setup does what it says, sets your preferences - you can have Fahrenheit if you don't usually work in Centigrade.

Communications lets you send the information somewhere else, either as an email, log to disk or transmit to a remote site via the internet. This last facility is being used by one of our University test sites to monitor the conditions in an eco-village 15 miles (24km) from the University.


Does it actually work

The nice clear screenshots were taken from the Dell laptop pictured above and show the conditions in my office at the time. Filming computer screens does not give a good picture but we have made a short video of the system working.

It's not magic

As we said at the beginning, saving energy is not magic but, to bring a little magic into your life, we can provide a special edition of the eco-wand ComfoMeter packaged in a presentation box with a 14 inch (355mm) wooden magic wand. 

eco-wand and Magic Wand in presentation case
eco-wand and Magic Wand in presentation case

Where we're at

We built a production prototype batch and have 42 units being used in the field helping the users understand how comfort works and how there rooms behave thermally. These users include 3 Universities, an energy testing centre and a number of individuals. I am negotiating with a Local Authority to supply a number of units.

I am working on this myself and have funded it myself - with a little help from Scottish Enterprise. I am almost ready to launch, there are just a few software details to be settled - see risks and challenges section.  The system is designed for easy manufacturing and distribution. The conventional business model says that I should test the market, do a market survey and then somebody might lend me enough money to finance the initial stock. But with a product like this, doing a good market survey would create a demand that would over-stretch me. But, with Kickstarter, you good people out there, can provide both the market survey, the finance and the time to meet your expectations. 

I can save you cash, you can get the project off the ground. It's not magic.

A Comfometer, uncased wand and case shells
A Comfometer, uncased wand and case shells


Where we've come from

Our previous product was a set of computer I/O modules that, using the printer port, turned a PC into a low speed oscilloscope, signal generator, logic analyzer, logic driver and temperature measurement system. This was licensed to another company and was available from RS Components and Maplins in the UK. Details of these products can be seen at www.vinstrumentation.com but these are now obsolete.

During that time, low cost solid state pressure sensors became available at a reasonable cost and we had the idea that we could produce a low cost “virtual” Barometer on a PC with pressure, temperature and humidity displays, weather forecasting and comfort meter capabilities.

Mk1 eco-wand prototype
Mk1 eco-wand prototype
Screen shots from 1st prototype software
Screen shots from 1st prototype software

These are typical Windows screens with drop-down menus and lots of keystrokes to do anything. The program was written in Java so that it could easily ported to different platforms but turned out to be a nightmare to change and maintain.

Three things then happened, good local weather forecasting became available over the internet, JavaFX was launched and the need to show how to save energy on heating and cooling costs became much more important.

So, we dropped the barometer function, rewrote the software in JavaFX and added the concept of comfort with economy. JavaFX allowed us to make almost everything mouse orientated rather than key orientated making the software much more user friendly and intuitive.

Thanks

To Janine Capaldi at Scottish Environmental Technology Network, Glasgow (www.setn.org.uk) for creating the video.

Risks and challenges

Manufacturing

The system is designed for easy manufacturing by a local PCB Assembler and we already have the mould for the case. The production prototype required a layout change for the full production model to incorporate more functionality. The new design is ready to send to the manufacturer so that a few samples can be made for final testing. It is not a complicated board, most of the power of the system is in the software.

A photograph of a cased and uncased unit is shown in the Where we're at section (Kickstarter doesn't allow me to put a photograph here)

This initial batch will take about 4 weeks to build. They will then be tested and formally checked that the design meets international emissions (CE) and USB standards. This will take another 4 weeks. Any issues are likely to be in firmware or software which can be rectified quickly.

After that, it will take another 4 weeks for our subcontractor to procure all the parts and manufacture the units.

After testing, the ComfoMeter units can be popped into a Jiffy bag and posted out. Software and any updates to both the software and firmware will be downloadable from our website.

At present, there are no competitors providing the facilities of the eco-wand system.

Once the existing range is fully in production, I have a range of other facilities that could be added to the system.

Risks - The system has been fully tested. The main risks are with CE and USB approval. There is little risk with CE approval - because the circuit board is so small there are no antenna to pickup or transmit signals. If there is a problem with USB approval, this can be dealt with in the firmware which can be updated after delivery of the units.

Challenges - The main challenge will come once the units are built but I have access to skilled people who can be recruited to do this work.

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FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    USB Ball extension lead with eco-wand sticker as used by the eco-wand to measure the temperature/humidity away from the vicinity of your computer.
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    Early Bird reward - An ComfoMeter USB module with eco-wand software.

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    Early Bird reward - An ComfoMeter USB module with eco-wand software and a wooden Magic Wand in presentation case and USB ball extension lead.
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    An ComfoMeter USB module with eco-wand software and wooden Magic Wand in presentation case.

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    An ComfoMeter USB module with eco-wand software and a wooden Magic Wand in presentation case and USB ball extension lead.
    £60 ≈ €72 ≈ $99

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Funding period

- (29 days)