August 29, 2008
| by Steven Castle
I’ve been blogging about home energy monitoring systems and bemoaning the general lack of affordable whole-house systems with easy-to-read interfaces. Come to find out, there is a really affordable energy monitoring system with an intuitive interface, and it comes from Cinemar Solutions.
The company develops whole-house control software for Windows platforms, with many plug-ins for audio and video systems, satellite radio, you name it. One of its products is the ML Energy Management System that offers data on a house’s energy use by day, month, kilowatt hour, rate, present use, carbon dioxide (CO2) production and a host of other variables.
The best news? The total cost of the user interface, server software and monitoring system combined is $426. (You’ll need Cinemar’s MainLobby and ML Server software as well.) You bring the PC and any monitor or touchscreen. That’s a great price for an energy monitoring system that can give you all kinds of info about your energy usage.
“People love to see data,” says Cinema president Mario Cascio. “If you can’t see energy and you’re just seeing a monthly bill, you can’t make changes to save energy.” Studies show that people who have access to information about their electricity usage save 10 percent or more. “People see how much they’re using, and go around and shut things off,” Cascio adds.
The system can only report on your home’s total energy usage, though, and not on the power consumption of individual electronics or appliances. The ML Energy Management System interfaces with The Energy Detective (TED), which is hard-wired to your home’s electrical panel. TED itself is $145, but only provides information via a box with a small readout. Cinemar’s system makes that data easy to see and digest.
The company is also working on making it easy to incorporate more automation logic such as dimming lights or activating motorized shading systems, based on certain conditions such as ambient light and temperature levels.
Cinemar software works with a number of consumer electronics manufacturers, including HAI, Denon, Insteon, Lutron, Sonance, Rusound, Yamaha, DirecTV, NuVo, HomeSeer, and more.
Cascio says the company is talking with IP-based home control company Control4 about writing a driver. Cascio expects to produce more client software (as in a user interface) for Apple’s Macintosh platform in the future, though Cinemar’s server software would still run on a Window’s PC.
Many of Cinemar’s dealers come from the IT industry, and the product is a natural for DIYers.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates