Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Web Energy Logger installation today

Today I installed a web energy logger on a solar thermal system in Halifax. The system is in a large multi-floor residential building. The entire process took about 3 hours, which is a new record for me. The solar data logging system installed has 5 temperature sensors and a current switch to detect if the pump is on. With this setup we are able to calculate the amount of energy that the solar panels are able to extract from the sun and supply to the glycol. The data logger will provide real time data once each minute as well as log the data to a .csv file for analysis at a later time. It connects to the WEL Server ( to transmit the data over the internet.

The limitation of this data logging system configuration is that it is unable to calculate how much of that energy is actually transferred to the water. Since the solar system was already installed prior to the decision to add a data logger, it does not have electronic pulse flow meters. Flow meters connected to the data logger would allow for accurate calculations of the energy supplied to residents and the savings on the buildings power bill associated with that energy. The decision to go back and install pulse flow meters will rest with the building owner.


LEED Green Associate

Today I received my LEED Green Associate credential! I passed my exam on Friday and today the Green Building Certification Institute officially delivered my recognition. I am now allowed to use the LEED Green Associate title in my email signature and on business cards.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Green Associate credential denotes a basic knowledge of green building practices and principles and LEED. I spent close to a month studying for the exam and was thrilled to pass on the first try.

LEED Green Associate represents the first tier of three available:
1) LEED Green Associate
2) LEED AP with specialty
3) LEED Fellow

My next goal will be to obtain the required LEED project experience to be eligible to write the LEED AP exam. I will probably specialize in Operations and Maintenance.

1st Year of ESET Complete

Today marks the end of my first year of the Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology program at NSCC. I am officially done for the summer and eligible for employment. I finished my work term working with NSCC Applied Research. I am hoping to be hired on with them for the next month and should find out soon. I will still need a job for the tail end of the summer.

The ESET program at NSCC has opened my eyes to the growing market for Green. Green construction and green energy markets are growing incredibly fast. The skills I have learned in my first year of the program include:

– Energy auditing
– Energy modelling
– Renewable energy assessments
– Drafting in AutoCAD and Google Sketchup

The Web Energy Logger (WEL)

The WEL is a low cost but effective data logger that can be used to monitor energy use or generation. It contains a one wire bus that allows digital sensors to be strung along like christmas tree lights. It also contains 6 pulse inputs, 8 run inputs, and 2 4-20 mA analog inputs. Pulse sensors return an electronic pulse signal and applications may include paddlewheel flow meters for water flow. The digital pulses can be counted and converted into a volume flow rate. Run sensors tell you if the device connected is on or not. Current switches can be installed over power cables to current and return an on/off signal. 4-20 mA sensors send a mA current signal that can be scaled into engineering units.

Inside the WEL you are allowed 150 variables. These can be sensor inputs, constants, or simple expressions of other variables. The WEL has limited internal memory so it is limited to simple 2 variable expressions and is not capable of doing exponents or square roots. That being said most energy calculations can still be performed inside the WEL. It also has support built in to maintain running totals for the day, month, or year of any variable.

The WEL uses a rabbit board network chip to connect to the internet and transmit the data. It can be set to log data at any frequency, entered in minutes. By default it connects to the WELserver ( This webpage contains a map of the world with all the other WEL’s shown on it. It is a great tool because it allows you to not only monitor your system, but see how others are doing as well. With some ingenuity you can connect the WEL to your own server to record and present the data there. The WEL posts data that can be received by a simple CGI or PHP script.

Typical WEL applications include monitoring of geothermal, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, and energy use. The WEL is diverse enough to be used in other applications as well. A device called the WattNode ( must be added if you want to measure alternating current.


Build Green Atlantic

Today I attended Build Green Atlantic, which is a green building conference presented by the Atlantic chapter of the Canadian Green Building Council and NSCC. The theme of the conference was Inspiration and Innovation. The conference presented 5 streams with a total of 25 presentations to choose from. The streams include:
1) Project profiles
2) Residential
3) Design
4) Carbon / Energy
5) Info / Education

The presentations I attended were:
1) LEED Certification Simplified – How LEED for Homes works with larger residential projects.
2) LEED Credentialing and Credentialing Maintenance.
3) Life Cycle Assessment – Developing a “Green Design” culture.
4) LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance – A team experience.
5) Making the business case for green building.

I really enjoyed the conference. The student admission rate was $35 which is very practical. Some of the conferences in my field tend to be very over priced. The best thing about the conference is that the workshops count towards your continuing education hours for LEED credentials. I don’t currently have a LEED credential but plan to write my LEED Green Associate exam really soon.