Meter enables cost-effective monitoring of energy usage

A new device could help manufacturers monitor their energy usage more cost-effectively using technology originally created for washing machines.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) in Germany have developed an electricity meter that can be externally fitted to individual systems in order to measure their energy consumption without having to turn them off first.

The device could help companies meet electricity targets by identifying their most energy-intense processes — something of particular interest in Germany, where tax rebates are due to be withdrawn from companies that don’t monitor energy use.

The new meter uses a 3D sensor, originally developed at IIS to monitor the position of washing-machine drums, that measures the magnetic field created by an electric current in the parallel direction as well as the perpendicular, making it more accurate than previous designs.

‘Normally you’d have to stop production lines to make installations for energy metering because you have to take out wires and put them into other devices installed between the other installation items,’ research scientist Michael Hackner told The Engineer.

‘But in many cases you have production lines running that are not to be interrupted because this is cost intensive — you lose time and have a period where you cannot produce any new products.’

The device has advantages over clamp-on ammeters, which only measure current not voltage and can become faulty following a short circuit, and Rogowski coils, which perform a similar function but only measure alternating current not direct current.