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August 22, 2009

TED 5000: Installation Notes and Observations

Category: Technology – Tom Harrison – 6:52 pm

I installed my new TED 5000 (“The Energy Detective”) today, and it’s working — here are some notes for anyone else who may find some of the available documentation a little lacking.

While anyone interested should feel free to read this, it’s mostly intended for other early-adopter types and to save the TED Support folks from questions. It’s pretty detailed, and probably only applies to a subset of TED users. So feel free to skip this post :-).

Inside the Electrical Box

The electrical box installation is actually easy, and while I’m no electrician, I have done enough electrical work to be dangerous. So for those of you who like me know almost enough, here are a few details I know now.

Update: 8/24: I emailed the TED Support folks to give them a heads-up on this post and they responded. One item that apparently was just a mix-up is that there is a CD for the new version, and it contains a pretty good visual guide for installation in the electrical box. Some of my questions at the breaker-box part of the install would have been cleared up by the doc I missed. Otherwise, they indicated no other major errors with what’s written here.

  • Turn off the main power when you’re ready to start. OK?
  • Write down the 6-digit serial number of the MTU before you install it; you’ll need it later. The documentation does point this out in red.
  • US homes typically have a three-wire main supply: 1 neutral, and 2 hot 120V lines (phases). Most circuits (e.g. to receptacles, lights) use one or the other line; high-load appliances will use both to make a 240V circuit. The breaker box is set up so that each vertical position has power from one then the other phase — phases are not split left and right, but up and down, which allows two (vertically) adjacent breakers to supply a 240V load. A dual pole breaker looks like two normal breakers with a plastic tie linking the pair; if one phase trips, the tie will trip the other.
  • If you have two vertically adjacent spare breaker positions, you can buy a dedicated dual-pole breaker for the TED connection, but it’s probably fine just to use one already installed, e.g. for your dryer, range or some other appliance; this is what I did (and the manual says its OK, too). Don’t just use any two adjacent breakers; while this would work, an electrical fault in one circuit would not cause the other to trip; maybe not good. If you are doubling-up connections on an existing dual-pole breaker, I found the existing wires were heavy gauge (#12), while the black and red wires for the TED were thin (#20, maybe). I twisted the two together as well as I could, and made sure to tighten the clamp connection on the breaker firmly, but I could see this being a problem if one wire became loose. Don’t be afraid to crank down on the wire clamp lugs (screws) hard; they are designed for it, and make sure to tug firmly to ensure everything is tight and solid before re-installing the breaker. Another option would be to use a wire-nut to link the two sets of wires together (one for a phase of the existing load, one for the TED) before the breaker, and then have a single lead for each phase into the breaker lugs.
  • It’s nice to have a couple light plastic wire-ties, some dual-stick tape, and a pair of scissors in addition to the two main tools needed: screwdriver and flashlight. The MTU installs in the breaker box; I stuck it to the inside with double-stick tape, and organized the wires with ties to make a neat job.
  • Watch the excellent video of TED 1000 installation on EnergyCircle’s site (it’s the installation video on the bottom) — there are some differences (the old TED worked only with one phase and needed only a single breaker) but the advice and guidance is applicable otherwise.

Footprints Software, Gateway Setup

I was a little confused by the instructions in a couple cases, and have a Mac which doesn’t support one little feature that Windows has. Anyway, here are my notes on the next part of setup.

  • The MTU (installed in the electrical box) and the Gateway (installed near your router) communicate over your electrical lines. The gateway needs to be plugged in, but the documentation makes a point of warning about electrical noise on the circuit used, especially from switch-mode devices on the same circuit or power-strip. But how do you know what a switch mode device is? I have two answers:
    1. “Switch-mode devices” would be any electronics having “good” transformers — the ones that don’t heat up and suck power up. Transformers are usually on the plug — are the bulky “wall-wart” that clogs up power strips and receptacles. If the transformer brick is very warm or hot to the touch, it’s probably not a switch-mode variety. Also, switch mode transformers tend to be smaller — iPods, iPhones, iTouches and other devices made by responsible electronics companies tend to use switch-mode transformers. But it’s also possible that the transformer is inside the device; for example, my router is an Apple Time Capsule (wireless router + hard disk), and then it’s pretty much impossible to tell. Anyway, I plugged the gateway into a power strip that also had the router on it (a potential “switch-mode device”, but these are the only things on that circuit. We’ll see if line noise is a problem over time.
    2. Well, time told the tale: apparently either the router or other items on the circuit were interfering with the power line communications. After writing this post on the 22nd, I started noticing that the data was not actually updating every few seconds. And then I noticed that there were bizarre readings in the data. I did several tests, including rebooting the gateway (which you can do from the web UI), unplugging the gateway, reinstalling firmware, and so on. It would work for a while, then get “stuck” again. So today, I moved the gateway to a circuit right next to the power box that has nothing else one it (at the moment … or should I say “currently” ;-)). It seems to be working now: within a few seconds of turning on anything, even my 14W CFL desk light, I see a reading. Also: I now see that the LED on the side of the gateway is blinking green, yesterday it was blinking amber, if it was blinking at all.
  • The box included a mini-CD. When looking for documentation, I attempted to see if it was on the disc. It’s not — it’s the old version of the Footprints software, which is irrelevant for the TED 5000 and inexplicably included in the box. (Side note: if you have a MacBook, don’t put a mini-CD in the drive as it won’t work, and won’t come out without some effort. Lesson learned the hard way ;-)
  • The gateway gets warm to the touch — I guess it’s a really an embedded computer CPU and memory. It’s probably a good idea to give it a little air to keep cool. 8/23: I have an update on this, as well: as I noted above, I was having some sort of connectivity issue, probably due to power line noise, and when the gateway was in this state, it got very hot — now it seems to be much cooler (which is good: hot indicates power consumption, which would not be a good thing for a device like this!)
  • With the MTU installed, and the Gateway plugged in, and connected to an Ethernet port on the router, you may be confused, as I was. There is an LED light next to the Ethernet port on the gateway, which indicates a successful Ethernet connection. This is different from the LED on the side which indicates status, and successful connection to the MTU (over the electrical wiring). When you first plug in the gateway, the LED on the side will flicker amber and green for a second or two, then go out. This is normal. You need to configure the gateway, telling it about the MTU before they’ll talk — at that point you should see occasional amber green blinking on the LED every few seconds — if you’re seeing amber or sort of a green-then-amber blink, this could be the problem I was having initially that I resolved by moving to a different circuit.
  • The instructions tell you to open your browser and go to http://TED5000 — this will work on a computer that supports WINS, in other words Windows, but not Mac OS X, or at least not mine. I was able to determine the IP address of the gateway by using a Windows machine on our home network (type “ping ted5000” from a command prompt and see the returned IP address). If you’re in a Mac only house, then try the first address after your router address (from a terminal prompt type “ifconfig” and look for the “inet” and/or “broadcast” line — chances are broadcast is either or, suggesting that the router is at or, respectively). By default, the gateway seems to use DHCP to check with the router to determine what address to use, and that seems to be one higher than the address of the router. You should be able to ping the router: try “ping” — if you get back a line every second, then try pinging — that’s the TED 500 gateway. Otherwise, try and respectively. I used in my browser to bring up Footprints. Hurrah! (I’ll investigate if there’s a reasonable WINS client that works with Macs, or with my Apple Time Capsule router)
  • The Footprints setup doc is available online as a PDF. This address is noted in the quick-start guide, but I missed it a couple of times.
  • Once you go through the setup wizard, you should be able to see data in the Footprints web software. Very cool indeed. If you don’t, there may be some communications issue between the MTU in the electrical box and the gateway. The amber green LED on the side of the gateway should be blinking every few seconds if all is well, amber if there’s a problem.
  • To my surprise and delight, Footprints even works nicely on my iPhone (when connected to my LAN)! I had figured it was a Flash application, but it’s not. Cool! (On the downside, it kind of takes the fun out of writing an obligatory iPhone application :-)
  • The device seems to support SSL (https) on a configurable port. This could be potentially useful if you wanted to see your footprints data from outside your house. But when I tried to use the https:// address, there was no password prompt, and SSL was much, much slower. Perhaps this would be useful for the API, but it would be good if you could set the SSL password from a LAN http connection, or some other means.
  • I was also about to write an email to tech support asking for the URL for the API, but found it on the TED 500 site, listed as http://gatewayip/api/LiveData.xml , which in my case would be — that worked fine.
  • The API data seems not to have access to the full set of data stored on the gateway — Footprints can display a graph of data the last two hours of seconds, for example, whereas the API seems to roll up data to the hour. This means I would need to poll the device every so often (maybe eveery 5 seconds, minute, or whatever), in order to collect the level of granularity needed to do stuff with the data. It’s possible to do, but the API doesn’t seem that fancy. It would be nice if there were a way to get at the level of granularity requested, up to the limits of what is actually stored on the gateway.
  • I have seen several cases of drop-outs in the reporting data, suggesting that maybe there is a problem with line noise (the data is transmitted over the electrical wires between the MTU and Gateway), perhaps this is the issue that they warn about in the manual. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but I’ll see and report back if it persists. If you see drop-outs in data, it indicates a problem with the power line connectivity.

Display Unit (optional)

  • If you have purchased the display unit, plug it in and charge it up first thing. It doesn’t matter where it is, and can be plugged in anywhere within wireless range of the gateway.
  • The quality of the display stand is pretty poor, if you ask me. It’s kind of a bulky boxy thing that the display slips into; you can take the display out and walk around with it (it has a rechargeable battery) which is good. But I suspect the stand will break if not treated with care.
  • The display unit also seems pretty poorly designed, having a questionable rechargeable battery, and I am also finding the wireless communications (Zigbee) to be extremely short range. The display unit is designed to sit in the cradle most of the time, but you can take it around and observe power changes in near-real-time. However when I had the display within a couple feet of the gateway, I got four bars of wireless signal, 2 or 3 after ten feet, and 0 or 1 bar much beyond that. The display’s wireless reception seems to be directionally sensitive relative to the gateway. To be fair, mine is updating successfully with 0 bars from about 30 feet and one floor away.
  • The display has a transformer to charge the battery, one which I think is a switch-mode type (see above). So while it’s unlikely that you would want the display in the same place as the Gateway, these two parts of the same system may not play well together.

So bottom line is that while a few things are a little rough around the edges, this is a very cool device, and it basically worked as advertised with minimal hassles. I suspect the TED folks will sort out details like documentation, diagnosis of line noise, and the other little issues I noted over the next few months.

If you do have a TED 5000 and have any corrections or additional notes, please add them in the comments.


  1. I just installed the TED 5000-C. Issues I am having are with it losing setup information for Date/Time, MTU, and Display. It maintains Utility Setup information.

    Also the Firmware and Footprints Software were bears to update. The Firmware especially was difficult as it would crash each time.

    Another item of note is that it is important that the Metering Clamps be in the correct direction(?). I was initially getting readings that seemed to be exactly half of what they should be. By taking one clamp off and flipping it 180 degrees on the wire to be measured it corrected the problem.

    Comment by Brian — October 23, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

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