20/20 Foresight: A Home Energy Management System that Works for You (instead of your utility)
Utilities are slowly modernizing the electrical infrastructure yet the rollout of smart meters has met with skepticism from consumers who have seen their utility bills change — in some cases dramatically.
Smart meters have been designed with the utilities in mind in order to more accurately bill for consumed energy. However, as consumers we’re still in the dark as to how much energy we’re consuming. Saying that I used 50 kilowatts of power last month is not useful. This lack of meaningful information has launched a new industry known as Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS). The concept of home energy management has gone from “nice to have” to “gotta have” in order to get a true and understandable reading of how much energy your household consumes.
Because there are many different types of residential users and a wide variety of utility rate structures, there will be no one-size-fits-all energy management solution. Rather than having one solution dictated by the utility, there are a number of well-vetted products that address these varying needs:
- Form Factor: You can choose from portable device/software-only HEMS that will transfer easily to your next residence or invest in a system that integrates fully with your home.
- Detail: Of the HEMS currently on or approaching the market, some monitor your residence as a whole, while some monitor individual devices and still others provide more granular room-by-room or circuit-by-circuit detail that makes it easy for you to identify hidden “energy hogs” in the home.
- Control: Simply having information about your energy consumption can enable considerable savings, typically estimated at 10-25 percent, but you may want to add control functions — such as the ability to time or remotely shut off individual outlets — to your energy management plan to enable even greater savings.
- Security: Home energy consumption details can provide a surprising amount of information about you and your lifestyle. Having this information in the cloud can be risky. Some HEMS aggregate usage data, while others keep detailed individual device or circuit data securely on your computer.
Recognizing the need for consumer information, the White House Office of Science and Technology launched the Green Button initiative to provide electricity customers with easy access to energy usage data in a consumer-friendly format via a “Green Button” on electric utilities’ websites. Here at EcoDog we jumped at the opportunity and created a Green Button app to help SDG&E and PG&E consumers predict the energy savings from big-ticket eco-friendly items like electric vehicles and solar panels prior to purchase. This is a good way to get the ball rolling toward overall decreased energy use, while HEMS provide specific data points tailored to a homeowner‘s lifestyle.
Home energy management is a vital part of determining and optimizing our energy footprint. When developing a strategy for saving money, and becoming more energy efficient, the most important tool is knowledge. HEMS are the very tool that can offer the knowledge you need to cultivate better energy consuming practices within your home and have more positive impact on your energy bill.
Ron Pitt is the CEO of EcoDog