Not too long ago, there were a limited number of ways that overzealous parents could monitor their homes to ensure that their teenage children stayed out of trouble -- and by staying out of trouble, I mean not throwing booze-fueled, “Weird Science”-esque house parties -- while left at home alone. Common tactics included marking each individual bottle in the liquor cabinet or paying off an elderly neighbor with homemade brownies to “check in” (read: spy) from time to time. Or, of course, there was the popular-in-movies “Surprise! We’re home from Maui a day early!” ambushing method.
Well, times have most certainly changed as one New Year's Eve party-throwing Australian teenager found out the hard way. Here’s the amusing story:
While traveling, telephony hardware and software developer David Rowe decided to remotely check in on the energy performance of his Adelaide home though a Fluksometer, an energy-monitoring device connected to his fuse box that sends real time electricity consumption data to his Android smartphone. Although his home was supposed to be empty -- his 16-year-old daughter Amy was staying elsewhere with friends -- Rowe was curious as to if the hot weather nearly 500 miles away in Adelaide would effect the power consumption of his vacant home. Explains Rowe: “I’m just sort of a power-geek.”
Fair enough. So Rowe opened up the Fluksometer app only to make a shocking discovery: his home’s electricity consumption was off the charts and it was evident that someone was there and running the air conditioner. At around 7 p.m., the electricity usage jumped even further as if someone had turned on the television and all of the lights. Had the Kevin Robertson craze made it all the way to the greater Adelaide area?
Not quite. Rowe just happened to be dining at a Melbourne-area restaurant with a group of savvy teenagers that evening and they clued him in as to what they suspected was going on back in Adelaide: His beloved daughter had possibly snuck home to throw a big ole New Years Eve house party while daddy was away. Quelle horreur! Still not entirely convinced that his innocent young daughter would do such a thing, Rowe decided to call Amy to check in. She told him that she was most certainly not at home but would swing by the house to make sure that everything was okay. Half an hour later, Amy texted her father to report that somehow the air conditioner and TV were on in the empty house (how odd!) but that she had turned them off.
Rowe describes what happened next:
By this stage half the restaurant (I was with a friend’s extended family) were crowded around my phone, watching the next development with excitement. My teenage brains-trust were calling 'Party' but there was no way to know for sure. Sure enough the power drops, down to about 180W. About what the fridge motor uses. However curiously, there was none of the regular fridge cycling on and off. It was as if all the lights were off in the house but the fridge motor was running all the time to cool or freeze something.
Long story short, Rowe returned to Adelaide the next day only to find some rather discriminating evidence: “disposable cups with sticky red liquid in them in one of the bins, a trace of the same red sticky stuff on my sink, and post it notes accidentally left on my fridge saying things like ‘Molly, you may have to open up another bottle.’ Bingo!
As for Amy, she didn’t fess up to her father until a week later: “When I realised we were busted there was a mass exodus. I was the last one out and could see a continuous line of teenagers stretched up the street over three blocks.”
"Project X"-obsessed teenagers with parents who are capable of remotely checking their home's energy consumption: you've officially been warned.