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EcoFactor sparks up Texas home energy management program

Here in Northern New Jersey, which I am sure some southerners think of as a rather temperate climate, it hit 102 degrees yesterday (without the whole humidity factor, heat index thing). The water company has banned all non-essential watering (sorry to the shrubs we just spent hundreds of dollars on this spring) but thankfully the electricity hasn't browned or blacked out yet.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Here in Northern New Jersey, which I am sure some southerners think of as a rather temperate climate, it hit 102 degrees yesterday (without the whole humidity factor, heat index thing). The water company has banned all non-essential watering (sorry to the shrubs we just spent hundreds of dollars on this spring) but thankfully the electricity hasn't browned or blacked out yet. Which is definitely a blessing since my home office is on the second floor of our house and this is one of the few days this year I will actually use my air-conditioning.

Yes, it's definitely a week where demand response theory -- and technology -- is just dying to be tested to thwart power outages. Ironically, it is only 80 degrees right now in Dallas, where a new home energy efficiency service and demand response service is being launched tomorrow by local utility Oncor and technology partner EcoFactor.

The service, part of the "Take a Load Off, Texas" energy efficiency program, is meant to encourage homeowners in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to cut back on the energy the use for heating and cooling their homes. The EcoFactor service manages your heating and cooling system and makes adjustments according to weather conditions or the preferences of the people inside. It is meant to help you do these things, even when you forget to do them. (How many people, for example, have simply cranked the AC for days even when the relatively low humidity outside meant that they could have done with a little less?) Trials have shown that EcoFactor can cut energy use related to climate control by between 20 percent and 30 percent per household.

EcoFactor CEO and cofounder John Steinberg says the program in Texas will accommodate up to $1,200 people. You have to own your own home in order to participate, have an Internet connection, and be an existing Oncor customer in the Metroplex area. Participating homeowners will pay $19.95 for the installation of the technology (thermostats and communications gateway) by a local Service Experts representative. That will cover the service for up to six months. After that, they'll have to pay $8.99 to stay connected to EcoFactor.

Steinberg describes the project as the first commercial-scale regional deployment of his company's technology. EcoFactor is working on similar arrangements with other utility companies that are seeking to get better insight -- and control of -- residential electricity demand.

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