Frequently Asked Questions

This page is a collection of the most frequently asked questions regarding ECAS.

Import or Export is not working!

Since ECAS was rewritten to target Android 5 and newer, it uses Googles standard mechanism to get and send data via other apps. Whenever ECAS wants to get data for import or wants to store exported data, a list of apps to use for the data exchange is presented. The list is assembled by the operating system, based on the installed apps and the capabilities they advertise. Once the user selects the desired app, the system forwards the request it received from ECAS, the selected app is started, collects any required input from the user (select a file to read or a location to put exported data) and either responds to ECAS with an identifier of a data stream which ECAS should be able to read (import), or reads data from the content URI contained in the request to send data (export).

This way, it is completely transparent to ECAS where the data is really coming from or going to. It only talks to a ‘content provider’ implemented by the other app to fetch data, or acts as a content provider on its own for the other app to fetch and process the exported data. For import, ECAS relies on a correctly implemented content provider of the other app, for export, the other app is responsible for fetching the data ECAS is providing and doing something with it. ECAS has no influence on how the other app is doing this.

Unfortunately, not all apps implement this interface correctly, so there are some that can’t be used for import, some that can handle import but not export, and some that don’t work at all. Whenever an app is identified which causes problems, it is analyzed and a problem report with any required details is sent to the developer of the affected app.

For convenience, here is a list of apps which are tested and how they are doing:

App Name Import Export Comment
Antek Explorer OK N/A Import only
Astro File Manager Broken N/A Not usable
DateiManager (Gira) OK N/A Import only
Drop Box Limited Limited ECAS needs storage access
ES Explorer OK Broken Bug report sent
File Commander Limited N/A Files only shown after extra filter setting changes
File Manager (ASUS) OK N/A Import only
Google Drive OK OK Recommended
GMail N/A OK Export only
Solid Explorer OK OK Commercial
Total Commander OK OK Recommended

For the DropBox import problem on Android 6, there is a workaround implemented in ECAS: When ECAS detects a permission problem accessing the data (due to the bug in DropBox), it will automatically request permissions to access local device storage. Once the permission is granted, the import can be restarted and should work from this point on. Be aware that there are reports of DropBox crashing when used for export. However, this may be limited to certain setups only, as it is normally working OK.

Is my data backed up?

Yes. Since version 3.0.5 of ECAS, the standard Google backup and restore service is used to keep the data in a safe place. There is one distinct backup for each device, so there are no conflicts when ECAS is installed on multiple devices with different data. Whenever the device is reset to factory defaults and the app is reinstalled, or when a new device is set up based on an older device (upgrading hardware), the previous data will automatically be restored together with the app. No more need to do manual daily backups to the cloud.

Database export is still useful to transfer a database from one device to another device when they are not associated with the same Google account.

How can I edit or delete a meter?

Open the context menu of the meter by a long touch of the meter in the meter list. Since edit and delete are both operations which are not used very often, they are available via the context menu only. The default action for a meter (short touch) is to add a new reading, since this is the most frequently used operation on an existing meter.

Is it possible to delete a meter reading?

Yes. Open the context menu of the reading (long touch of the reading in the reading list).

Is there a rule as to how my meters are sorted in the meter list?

Yes. Meters are sorted by comment, then by meter name. This is done in order to group meters which are related to each other. 90% of all users seem to use the comment field to enter the physical location of the meter, or other information to denote the context in which the meter is used. The meter name is normally related to what the meter is counting, like water, electricity, gas, solar panel output and so on.

Given this usage of meter name and comment, it makes sense to sort by comment/location first, then, within the same comment, sort by meter name. This keeps all meters of a specific building or appartment together.

Note that the comment may be multi-line. If you need a specific sort order, use the first line of the comment to control sorting and put any additional comments on a separate line.

My meter is going to be exchanged, what should I do?

First of all, do not create a new meter in the database if the new meter is installed only as a replacement of the old meter. Follow these steps during the meter change to keep a consistent trend graph and usage statistics:

  1. Before the old meter is swapped out, take the last reading and enter it in ECAS.
  2. Have the meter exchanged.
  3. Before the new meter is put into operation, take its initial reading (probably zero, but this is not necessary) and enter it as well. Make sure to keep at least one minute distance between the old and the new reading, such that the database can distinguish them.

That’s it. ECAS will detect the meter change by the fact that a newer reading with a lower value was entered. It will show ‘first reading’ for the first reading of the new meter and will continue consumption measurements from there, seamlessly.

Starting with version 2.3.0, there is also the option to define the meter as bidirectional meter (a meter which may run in both directions). In this case, automatic meter change detection is disabled needs to be entered manually. The procedure is the same as above, only that in step 3, the first reading which is entered needs to have the ‘first reading’ check box activated, to tell ECAS that this is the first reading of a new meter.

Is it possible to import and export meter readings?

Yes. CSV Import/Export is available in the context menu of every meter (long touch on the meter in the meter list). This means that you first need to define a meter to hold the data you want to import. Then open the context menu, select Import from CSV, and browse to the CSV file holding the data to import. The format is explained in a dialog prior to the import. Note the following important points:

  1. Date and time entries must be formatted according to ISO-8601
  2. Decimal numbers use a decimal point (not a comma)
  3. The column separator is the comma

If you generated the CSV file using MS Excel on a Windows PC where the list separator in the region settings of Windows is not set to the comma, you may need additional steps to convert the localized CSV variant to the international one. Please see this article for further information.

The Import command does not work on my data.

The import and export commands from the main menu on the meter list are used for backup and restore of the entire SQLite database. This import is not suitable to import data from external programs. Use the CSV Import function from the context menu of a meter instead.

The trend graph shows garbage. Consumption makes no sense.

The trend graph does not show total amount of energy used. The bar graph and table view on the statistics page are used for this information. The trend graph shows current consumption values normalized to a certain time period (hour/day/week or month), which is a measurement for the usage rate of energy between two readings. It provides valuable information about changes in consumption rate over time and it is independent of the interval between two measurements. More readings only increase resolution, but do not change the overall result.

Example: You turn on an appliance which needs 10kW to operate and you let it run for one hour. Your meter will record a total usage of 10kWh within this one hour. If you took a reading at the beginning and the end (one hour apart), the trend will show a normalized usage rate of 10kWh per hour (=10kW) , or 240kWh per day (=10kW), or 1680kWh per week. The numbers depend on the selected time frame for normalization, but the result is always 10kW. It means that during this one hour, you used energy at a rate of 10kW (the rating of the appliance). At this rate, you would consume 240kWh of energy per day or 1680kWh per week, which is what the trend is showing.

Evaluating the usage rate over time is different from evaluating total consumption within a certain time frame. In the first case, there is one important piece of additional information which is lost in the second case: The trend will let you know if the energy used during a certain period of time was entirely used by appliances which are constantly on, using energy at a low rate (flat curve), or if it was used by an appliance all within one hour at a high rate (the curve shows a peak). This is important information to analyze usage patterns and develop the right strategy to save energy, which will be different in situations where most of the energy consumption happens at a steady rate, than in situations with a low baseline and a number of distinct peaks.

Can I convert units? My meter reads m³ but I want to see kWh.

Starting with version 2.2.0 of ECAS, conversion can be done directly at the physical meter. If you do not need the same data shown in m³ and also in kWh, you can activate the new meter option called Indirect and set the conversion factor accordingly. For conversion from gas volume to energy, check your gas bill for the correct factor. From m³ to kWh, a usual factor is 10.6, but it depends on the type of gas delivered by the utility company, the altitude at which the gas is used, and the average temperature at the location of the meter (indoor / outdoor).

The meter units specified at the top right of the configuration page should always be the units for display (kWh in this case) and the costs per unit need to refer to this display unit. Below the option for indirect meter reading is another option to set the unit shown on the meter itself. This unit will be shown when meter readings are entered or edited, since on these pages, you will be working with the raw meter readings, not the scaled values.

In case you also need to add up the values of multiple physical meters, the unit conversion can also be done at the virtual meter, leaving the physical meter entirely at its physical units.

The mixed usage of decimal point and comma is confusing.

This is a limitation of Android. Most of the standard elements are hard coded to use a decimal point, regardless of the conventions defined by the language and region settings. The standard numeric keyboard on new Android versions only provides a key for a decimal point, even on systems which would require a comma instead. If the user installs a custom keyboard providing the comma in numeric mode, the Android input field will not accept it.

Android provides a way to define a custom input field, which accepts a certain set of characters defined by the programmer, so in theory this could be used to build custom input fields which accept the comma, but such input fields will not cause Android to show the numeric keyboard. Instead, it would bring up the alphanumeric keyboard, which is usually not what you want when a number needs to be entered.

In any case, whenever the application formats a decimal number for output, it is possible to  adjust it to match the current locale. There is currently nothing we can do about this inconsistency, except for trying to convince Google that this is a bug which needs to be fixed. A report about it is pending for around 3 years now, but Google has marked it a feature request and is not going to do anything about it. Add a star to this feature request, to get Googles attention.

How should I set the smoothing for my meter?

Start with both sliders in the middle position. The best setting depends on the kind of data available and the intended result regarding the smoothness of the trend graph. Increasing the value smoothing will make the trend less responsive to sudden changes in consumption rate. The trend curve will become more even and the overall long term consumption rate can be determined more easily even with highly erratic measurements.

As a result of a high value smoothing, you will notice a certain lag of the trend curve when the original data has a clear trend (upwards or downwards) and this trend changes direction. The smoothed trend curve will follow this direction change, but will do so with a certain delay, caused by the smoothing.

To compensate for this phase shift, the trend smoothing can be lowered, such that the curve detects trend changes and adjusts faster to the direction change. Higher settings for the trend smoothing factor will make the curve less responsive to a trend change and may cause more of a lag until the curve follows the new trend, but will also prevent overshooting in case of sudden trend changes.

I have two meters for electricity (day/night). What now?

Define two meters for the two units and enter the corresponding tariff information (energy from the night time meter may be less expensive). When taking readings, try to read both meters around the same time. This is not required, but increases accuracy.

If you want to see how much energy you used in total, add a virtual meter and configure it such that it adds up the day and the night meter. Note that the tariff settings for the virtual meter are read-only, since they are determined automatically from the physical meters.

I can’t set tariff information for my virtual meter.

You can’t, because this information is determined from the different physical meters which provide input for the virtual meter. Since the unit cost will be different for each of the physical meters, there is no single unit cost value for a virtual meter at all. Each part of the total consumption needs to be associated with the unit cost of the meter which reported the consumption.

Fixed cost for a virtual meter is a single value. It is displayed on the meter definition page of the virtual meter, but it is read-only because it is calculated automatically.

If you have a physical meter measuring gas volume and a virtual meter which displays this data in kWh, you still need to set the unit cost at the physical meter. If your utility company only provides unit cost for kWh, translate this back to the physical unit measured by the meter (for example, divide the cost per kWh by 10.6 to get cost per cubic meter).

What happens if my energy costs are changing in the future?

ECAS does not track changes of energy cost over time. Whatever costs are set in the meter definition is used for the entire set of readings. Changing the cost factor for a meter immediately changes the readings for energy cost of that meter. Due to a number of user inquiries, there is a pending feature request to allow a different mode of operation using fixed historic cost factors, which may be implemented in a future version.

That said, there are a number of reasons why costs are currently handled in this way:

  1. Maintaining a separate table of energy costs over time and using this table to determine actual cost of used energy for each meter is technically complicated and also hard to keep track of for the end user.
  2. The cost function of ECAS does not focus on tracking exact amounts of money for the energy consumed. This is already done by the utility company, so there is no need for ECAS to duplicate that.
  3. The cost function is intended to be used as a planning tool, which is able to show you how much the consumed energy would cost, given a certain cost factor. This factor may be set to the current average cost for energy, but it may also be set to a forecast of energy cost in the near or not-so-near future.

I can’t or don’t want to use pinch-zoom

If your device does not support pinch-zoom or you are not comfortable using it (on very small screens), you can use the lower left and right corners of the graph area to zoom in and out. First, use the buttons to move the zoom near the desired range, then continue with the corners. Each tap on a corner will change the zoom setting by 50% of the current setting: [new] = [current] x 1.5 or 0.5 for example, rounded to days on the X-axis: 7, 10, 15, 23, 35, 53, …

Note that the highest and lowest zoom settings (quarterly and hourly) can only be reached by pinch zoom or by using the corners. There are no preset buttons for these zoom settings, as they are not used very often.

How can I record precipitation (rain)?

The best way to do this is to use a normal meter. Rain is usually measured as the amount of water (volume) per surface area (square meters), which reduces itself to a linear height measurement (m³/m² = m) usually reported in millimeter of rain within a certain time frame (hour, day, or month).

At the start of a new measurement period (measurement box is empty), a zero reading is added. At the end of the measurement cycle, the amount of rainfall (in mm) is added as a new reading. The box is then emptied and another zero reading is entered to start the next measurement cycle. The application will detect this reset and handle it correctly.

All of this does not answer my concern, can I leave a feature request for ECAS?

Yes. It is now possible to check out all currently known feature requests and leave a comment for a new feature if needed. Please see the feature request page.

2 Responses to FAQ

  1. friday5er says:

    Have just installed ECAS on my samsung, but can’t find how to load cost per unit for gas and electricity. How to do?

  2. tedhandy says:

    Hallo, hoe kan ik meterstanden van jaren terug er nog in zetten? Deze zijn van een keer per week opgenomen en staan nu nog in een schrift opgeschreven. Als het nu doe gaat de datum steeds terug naar de dag van vandaag. Ook als ik van meter verander.

    Al vast bedankt,

    Groet Ted

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