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Updated: 11 min 2 sec ago

Introducing emonTx V3.4

Wed, 17/12/2014 - 13:03
Now shipping later this week in the shop is an updated version to the emonTx V3. This is a relatively minor update feature and form factor wise, most users probably won't notice the difference. However when hardware is involved, no update is a minor update!

emonTx V3.4 is now available from the OpenEnergyMonitor Shop

The main changes  are under the hood; the ATmega328 Arduino compatible microprocessor is now is now laid down directly on the PCB. This will help with manufacture and give us a few extra I/O to pay with that were inaccessible on RFu328 module that we used on the original emonTx V3.2. The changes also bring us back in line with JeenNode hardware (IRQ and INT connections) which allow us to use the latest RF12 JeeLib library to support the RFM69CW (see separate post).
emonTx V3.4 Installed
emonTx V3.4 - production units will have battery holder fitted - omitted for photo to show componentsFeatures New features on emonTx V3.4 over V3 shown in bold:
  • Measure AC Apparent Power, AC Real power* and AC RMS voltage*
  • 3 x single-phase CT current sensor inputs (100A / 24KW @ 240V max)
  • 1 x high sensitivity single-phase CT current sensor input channel (18.8A / 4.5KW @ 240V max)
  • 1 x RJ45 input for connecting DS18B20 temperature sensors
  • Single AC-AC adapter can power the unit and provide AC voltage measurement
  • An on-board 3x AA battery option with remote monitoring of battery voltage
  • Terminal block access to power rails, digital and analogue I/O and IRQ port for connecting pulse counting sensor / DS18B20 temperature / Aux sensors
  • DIP switch selection of RF node ID and 240V/110V AC adapter selection, see #DIP Switch Config
  • SMA antenna included as standard 
*when AC-AC voltage adapter is connected

emonTx as part of the OpenEnergyMonitor systemThe emonTx V3.4 uses an edge SMA connector with an SMA antenna included as standard. We have standardised on 433Mhz (see forum post). The emonTx V3.4 supports and will eventually ship with the new RFM69CW module, this module is backwards compatible with RFM12B. However due to sourcing and lead time issues we have had to use RFM12B on the first batch of 500 units of emonTx V3.4 (now in the shop). When the RFM69CW is used a RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) will appear in emoncms giving indication of signal strength. 
emonTx V3.4 with RFM69CW and edge SMA connector The emonTx V3.4 has the addition of an RJ45 socket to allow ease of connecting multiple DS18B20 temperature sensors. Screened RJ45 cabling (Ethernet) is commonly available as well as RJ45 splitters and extenders. This makes a quick and easy way to wire up a house / heat-pump etc for temperature monitoring. Power, GND, IRQ, ADC and PWM I/O's are also available through the RJ45 connector, see wiki for pinout and technical details.

Note: the RJ45 connection is not Ethernet, TCP network switches and routers should not be used 

RJ45 connector used with RJ45 terminal breakout for connection of multiple encapsulated DS18B20 temperature sensors, DS18B20 temperature sensors are also available wired directly on RJ45 connector
DS18B20 Temperature Sensor on RJ45
Certification & EnvironmentalThe emonTx V3.4 is EMC compliant, CE certified. 
The unit is manufactured and assembled in the UK using lead free processes, with RoHS and conflict material free components. The enclosure is made in the UK using recyclable aluminium and recycled acrylic plastic is used for the front and rear fascia. 
emonTx V3.4 is now available from the OpenEnergyMonitor Shop
Links Getting Started GuideemonTx V3.4 Technical Documentation Wiki emonTx V3.4 open-source hardware design available on GitHubemonTx Arduino compatible firmware GitHub
Categories: Blog

Kettle vs Blanket

Mon, 08/12/2014 - 12:55
One of the things I love about monitoring energy is that it can be used to answer questions and inform decisions.

In my household we have recently purchased an electric blanket, I had always associated such items as an indulgent luxury! However at this time of year the temperature in our bedroom is often only just about in double figures (old property with poor heating and frugal use) necessitating a seemingly moderate luxury of a hot water bottle to warm the bed up a little.   
I assumed using the new electric blanket would result in an increase in our power consumption, however the energy monitor proved me wrong! 
Having the electric blanket on for 30min used about 0.1KWh while boiling 1L of hot water to fill at hot water bottle used about 0.16KWh of energy, 60% more! Also the electric blanket does a much better job of warming the bed then the hot water bottle, after 30min it was almost uncomfortably hot even with an ambient temperature in the room of 11 degrees! 

200W Electric Blanket on for about 30 min
Kettle heating 1L of water to boiling
Categories: Blog

Introducing RFM69CW

Mon, 08/12/2014 - 12:14
For sometime now the Hope RF RFM12B module has been our RF module of choice. This module was chosen for it's low cost, decent performance and importantly for us, an active development community. On the software side we use the excellent JeeLabs JeeLib RF12 Arduino library.

About a year ago Hope RF announced the RFM12B to be 'EOL' (End-of-Life), there has been a degree of confusion as to what exactly this means; currently manufacture of the module is still taking place and supply is still easily available. However, we acknowledged that the time had arrived to look for alternatives since Hope RF no longer offers support or recommends the RFM12B for new products. 
An obvious alternative that was explored by JeeLabs  is the Hope RF RFM69CW module, it uses SEMTEC designed silicon (as opposed to Silicon Labs in the RFM12B). It's pin-compatible with the RFM12B. Using the updated JeeLib driver the RFM69CW is be backwards compatible with RFM12B helping users of RFM12B to make a smooth transition. Thanks to JCW from JeeLabs and LowPower Labs for the work on developing the RFM69CW Arduino library. We have been working with JeeLabs to source modules and test the driver software.    

I will let JeeLabs/DigitalSmarties introduce the module 
"The recently announced RFM69CW radio module by HopeRF is a compact, powerful radio transceiver module for swapping data packets in the 868 MHz ISM band, using standard and enhanced FSK modulation. Great for sub-compact designs; just 4mm of mounted height from using an SMD precision crystal.
Though consuming a similar level of power, the RFM69CW receiver section can decode fainter signals than the classic RFM12B. The transmitter section *maximum* output power is +13dBm, considerably higher than the +5dBm of the RFM12B. The current drain at these (adjustable) higher power settings is correspondingly higher. With the better receiver sensitivity, many applications will not need to use the higher transmit power settings, potentially saving on battery life.

Comparing like-with-like, pairs of modules will generally have greater range and/or better penetration of walls/ceiling than when using pairs of the classic RFM12B.

The physical module is compatible with the PCB footprint on all current JeeNodes and JeeLinks. For details of the fast-evolving level of software support, see this Forum topic.

Control is via a fast SPI bus with reduced MPU loading. The recommended power supply range of 1.8 < Vdd < 3.6 V can squeeze almost the last energy out of depleting batteries without needing a boost converter."

Comparison tabled compiled by

Early next year we will start transitioning to the RFM69CW, end-users should not notice a difference apart from a new input on the emoncms Inputs page 'RSSI' (Received Signal Strength Indicator), see below.

To simplify manufacture and module sourcing we will be standardising on 433Mhz, we will make available no-RF versions of units for users who wish to solder on their own 868Mhz modules. See forum thread

RFM69CW on the emonTx V3.4 
For early adopters we have limited numbers of RFM12Pi Raspberry Pi Expansion with RFM69CW module in the shop. Using the latest emonHub software (currently in 'Testing' branch) using the RFM12Pi with RFM69CW on a Raspberry Pi should be seamless, emonHub automatically detects the higher baud rate requirement of the RFM12Pi with RFM69CW (56700 as opposed to 9600 with RFM12B RFM12Pi) sets baud accordingly and starts posting RSSI (received signal strength indication) to emoncms.
RFM69CW on the RFM12Pi on Raspberry Pi Model B+
Example RSSI value from emonTH in emoncms
The RSSI readings are very useful as they give a quantitative means of comparing RF performance which should help when deciding on the positioning of units during install and developing better antenna setups.

RSSI readings from nodes setup in my house (mix of RFM12B and RFM69CW) 
RFM69CW on the upcoming emonPi Raspberry Pi Energy Monitoring Shield (due for launch in the new year) 
For more info on the RFM69CW see Building Block Overview Page:

Categories: Blog