3 things to know about home energy management technology

3 things to know about home energy management technology

Summary: I have literally been deluged with information about consumer energy management habits related to the smart grid over the past three weeks.Basically, these surveys cover what homeowners might (or might not) do when it comes to participating in proactive energy management.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

I have literally been deluged with information about consumer energy management habits related to the smart grid over the past three weeks.

Basically, these surveys cover what homeowners might (or might not) do when it comes to participating in proactive energy management. There are all manner of sponsors for this data, from independent research firms to vendors selling energy management software and services to industry associations that figure they will be affected in some way by the smart grid.

Before I recount some of the individual results, let me share some of the common themes. Actually, there really is NO common theme, other than that fact that most consumers aren't participating at all right now in any kind of energy management program and that awareness remains sort of stuck in neutral. What that in mind, here are some of the things that really jumped out to me across the different research.

      1. The market is going to grow more slowly than certain people would like. Pike Research figures that the number of people using home energy management systems will reach about 63 million by 2020. That's up from approximately 1 million in 2011. If you think about all the people that live in the United States, that really doesn't seem like a lot, does it? Unlike the enterprise energy management marketplace, which is pretty self-serving in that companies see how much money they can save, many individuals still haven't figured out the impetus for investing in these technologies. One thing that is a big wildcard and that COULD push usage is the adoption of electric vehicles. Notes Pike Research director Bob Gohn: "When the garage becomes the gas station, consumers will demand more sophisticated energy management capabilities, and utilities will need greater visibility into residential energy consumption patterns."
      2. Consumers are waiting for the utility companies' lead. The May 2011 survey from marketing agency EcoPinion, called "Consumer Cents for Smart Grid," suggests that consumer awareness of the term "smart grid" has barely budged in the year since it conducted another survey about this topic. Approximately 87 percent of those surveyed by EcoPinion DO say they are interested in hearing about ways that utilities can help them reduce their bills. When told how the smart grid and its related home energy management component could address consumption and payment options, approximately the same number said it sounded appealing. But the overriding finding of the survey, according to EcoPinion, is that utilities will need to show consumers how the smart grid can save them money -- short-term AND long-term -- before they will be willing to adopt. Approximately 1,000 consumers responded to the survey, which was conducted in April 2011.
      3. The savings potential still needs to be demonstrated. What struck me most about the survey on energy management taken by the Consumer Electronics Association was that there was a demonstrable but small difference in the average household electricity cost of consumers enrolled in management programs versus those who were not enrolled in programs. According to the CEA data, the average monthly cost for an enrolled household was $125 compared with $132 for an unenrolled household. The CEA survey was conducted in April 2011 amount 1,250 adults. Slightly more than half of them (55 percent) indicated that they would be interested in an energy management program sponsored by a utility company. These findings are at odds with some data I am reading from EcoFactor, which is one of the vendors that sells residential energy management technology. According to results it has published about its early pilot projects, which are going on around the United States, households using EcoFactor's home energy management service are reducing consumption on average by 17 percent. In order for this to happen, however, you have to give up some control. Noted EcoFactor CEO John Steinberg: "It works because we're going beyond basic remote controls that just make the specific changes that consumers tell them to -- and thus can only save energy to the extent the homeowner understands how to reduce usage and change their behavior accordingly. EcoFactor does it automatically, maintaining desired comfort levels while delivering big reductions in energy use making it a profitable addition to our service provider partners' portfolios."

      Personally, I think the whole matter of control is what is going to make the whole home energy management technology sector a very tricky one indeed to predict.

      Topic: Emerging Tech

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      • What About Security?

        I appreciate what this new industry is trying to achieve, and am "generally" interested in participating, but I would never consider doing so until I felt basic security was deeply baked-in to the design. Given what I see happening with our overall connected infrastructure I think I would be signing up to be a prime hacking target.
        I see at least two critical attack vectors: Once my home site has been successfully linked to my providers information on me identity theft and financial repercussions abound, and when some hacker-vandal got in I could come home to find my house unbearably hot or cold, or who-knows-what else as the grid expands its capabilities.
        • RE: 3 things to know about home energy management technology

          You don't have to be connected to the "smart grid" to take advantage of an energy management system. My system resides on my home network, no outside access required. And while I certainly don't think my home network is inpenetrable to a dedicated hacker, there are worse things they can do than playing with my a/c, lights, and entertainment systems.
      • Extreme Technology ...

        Deleted Message because Save didn't work.
      • Pushing Extreme Technology as a guise to lower consumption

        Boulder, CO was one of the first wide-scale 'Smart Grid' cities. Other than installing SmartMeters, the bulk of the money went to duplicating existing WAN infrastructure that was no more secure or reliable that existing conventional network technologies.<br><br>My hopes rested on my home energy management computer being able to query the SmartMeter for real-time usage data, as well as real-time data on electricity cost and amount of renewable energy vs. conventional being used. Instead, all the Utility provides is a web-based virtual spreadsheet updated once every 24 hours with some crude data usage over the preceeding period. So much for homeowners being able to perform interactive interaction to save power.<br><br>As for the Utility's need to 'control' our lifestyle, there have been other methods of saving energy that relied on simple user presentation devices such as a glowing Orb that turned Redder as more electricity was used, and turned Greener as consumption fell below a running mean. Almost every house using this technology reduced usage by about 25% because when the Orb glowed red, everyone ran around the house turning off lights, computers, turning down heat, etc.<br><br>This is an example of a simple technology that could be inexpensively tied to a Smart Meter, but the utilities don't want us to get our usage data - they want to own it and sell it to us as part of a package of expensive remote controls.<br><br>I helped design an energy Demand-Limit controller years ago that allowed a homeowner to set a limit on the maximum demand for electricity to a predefined value, and as usage approached that limit, the controller began cycling off baseboard heating, hot water heater, etc. The system cost about $1000 installed, but for all-electric homes, the savings could easily be $200/month since demand billing was based on the highest usage the entire month. The controller simply leveled out the few high peaks and reduced bills correspondingly. The utility companies hated this since they had been getting paid for the entire month's use at the maximum rate, and pretty soon they dropped their home demand billing options as being unprofitable.<br><br>So all the talk and effort of implementing energy management in the home to cut back on the utility bills will instead be used to further fatten the pockets of the utilities, while making the consumer's life worse.<br><br>Reducing demand for electricity is to a utility as opening the store for 2 hours/day is to a retail business. Whenever you hear utility companies preaching energy management, be assured they mean "manage to extract more money" from their customers.<br><br>Too bad - the planet could use some real reductions in energy demand.
      • Trust the power companies???

        HA! Not bloody likely!<br><br>Look at the enormous salaries and bonuses the upper management buffoons get. The power companies keep badgering us to "conserve power" but, when we do, they run crying to the regulatory agencies about how they are losing money. So we save and they STILL raise the rates!<br><br>Think about it: you hear the ads for brokerage firms and they all have "disclaimers" warning about the possibility of financial loss. Not so the power companies. They have a "captive" base to pay their investors their dividends so their investors never lose dividends OR principal on their investments.<br><br>As a result, no matter HOW much we save, the power companies will NEVER let their investors take a "risk" or let their profits be a more "normal" percentage of the company's expenses like other conglomerates.
        • RE: 3 things to know about home energy management technology

          I've noticed the same thing over the years.
      • RE: 3 things to know about home energy management technology

        Just invent something so everybody can get off the grid.