Since I first bought my TED 1001 I have wanted a TED 5000. Even back then, there was talk about the forthcoming TED 5000, and at the time, I would email TED support, and they would comment it was in the works. Six months would go by, email again, and same thing. I believe in the end, the product was delayed about a year or more (at least, from the time they were saying 6 months, and the time it actually came out).
Anyway, it came out, and consisted of 2 main parts, and 1 optional one. The MTU (the part that actually measures the electrical usage from the current transformers and then sends that info over power line transmission), the Gateway (which takes that info in, and either uploads to a power monitoring website, or presents it from its webpage), and the optional display unit. The Gateway and the Display talk over XBee. In theory, the MTU and Gateway bit are basically the same as the MTU and station piece of the TED 1001 with the addition of an ethernet port, and internal web server. This provided a relatively platform agnostic approach to the TED, which previously only had a Windows based “client” for the TED 1001, which was only usable if you purchased the unlock code for the USB port on the TED 1001.
Anyway, all of this was good, on paper. As we’ll see, this didn’t all quite play out as one would hope1.
So, I recently won a TED 5000-C (includes the display, vs. the TED 5000-G which does not) on eBay for about half the cost of a new unit. After some shipping time, the unit arrived, and as it turned out, the Gateway dated back to the original production run of 500 (signified by the serial number of the Gateway starting with 20). After that initial 500, they made some hardware changes to the Gateway, and then incremented the serial number to ≥21. From my understanding, the upgrade was mainly adding more RAM, but there could be more (they haven’t been forthcoming). I’m uncertain if the display and MTU date from a similar time period (it appeared the set I got had been a bit of a mishmash from a couple different sources).
So, first thing, I was a bit disappointed that the gateway was old. I had read that the latest firmware didn’t run well, or at all, on those original gateways. Now, I was able to get the latest firmware(s) onto the gateway, but it was a bit sluggish, and I honestly can’t say I know how well it really worked because of the next section…
The display. The display was… terrible. I actually can’t believe they shipped a product that was so bad. So, the display box consists of a wall wart (fine), a dock, and the display that is quite light, and feels pretty cheap. There’s a large screen on it, a single button (that only changes the info being displayed), and on the bottom, a DC power jack. This “docks” to the charging base that simply has a long DC power plug sticking out of it, which is simply an extension of the jack on the back which you plug the wall wart into. So really, the “dock” is just a plastic box, with a right angle DC jack in it… So first off, docking the display requires way too much force. Because it requires so much force, the dock moves around while plugging and unplugging. You actually have to hold the dock to “dock” the handset. Worse, with the unit I had, if you moved the dock at all while the display was docked, the display would “reset” and register as plugged in, rinse and repeat. I’m guessing the jack on the display had a cold solder joint, but I’m not going to bother checking, it’s just a sign of shoddy construction. Then all that out of the way, there’s the actual LCD. The backlight was quite bright (fine), but I can only describe it as low resolution… maybe it was the font choice, but the readout was extremely blocky. Further, pressing the button required a good second or more to switch between information being displayed, which is completely worthless. Maybe this is because the display isn’t actually receiving information unless it asks for that specific info over XBee, and it takes that long to get the info back from the Gateway, but it seems very user unfriendly.
All of this combined, I didn’t actually bother to install the unit fully. It really started to make me understand why Energy Circle stopped carrying them2. Contacting TED about the Gateway resulted in them A. saying they didn’t support purchases from non-authorized resellers (understandable), and B. Updating the Gateway would be $75 + $10 shipping. Huh.
What is most ironic about all of this is all of these items probably date back to 2009, when The Energy Detective stopped sending out review units. So the last review units provided to people were before they have, in theory, fixed these issues… but no reviewers would know! In some fairness, they did offer to sell me a refurbished TED 5000 unit for a discount (about 25% off), but not enough of a discount to discourage those interested from buying through eBay, or to encourage reviewers of new hardware. Worse still, their Press department doesn’t respond to email at all, nor does their Support much of the time. Sad, from a really pioneering company. I truly hope they reach out and try to help address my concerns.
After all of this, I’m going to be looking at other products before I consider coming back around to the TED. On paper, and in literature, the TED 5000 looks like an awesome product, at a great price point. In reality, at least the unit I got, was extremely disappointing. I am actually returning it to the eBay seller thanks to his understanding of my frustrations. And unless TED (the company) want to change some minds about this, this review is really going to stand at the rating I give now. This is really sad, actually, because by and large, I like my TED 1001 a lot. It does what it does very well, and reliably.
- an interesting tidbit is that I had asked repeatedly over the years for a review unit, and only recently was replied to, and told they stopped offering them in 2009, which we’ll come back to [↩]
- I believe a bigger reason was issues with Power Line Communication, but I’m sure build quality didn’t help [↩]