Can You Save $342 a Year in Standby Power?
BlueBolt’s new plug-in modules and gateway allow monitoring and control of devices throughout the home.
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September 20, 2011 by Steven Castle

Panamax Furman says you can save $342 a year with its cloud-based BlueBolt home energy management system’s plug-in modules, which will be available in the first quarter of 2012. 

BlueBolt is currently a remote monitoring system that works with select Panamax and Furman power conditioners and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to monitor components plugged into them, cut power to them to save on standby power and reboot them remotely if necessary. The current system is used largely for audio/video and home theater installations, with components controlled via independent, IP-addressable circuits on the power conditioners and UPS devices.

The system can monitor the energy use of connected components, though many custom electronics (CE) pros install BlueBolt primarily for its remote rebooting capabilities.

BlueBolt Around the House

Next year BlueBolt will expand its offerings with wirelessly communicating MD2-ZB plug-in modules ($100 each), each of which has two outlets for the control and monitoring of electronic devices around the house, as well as a BB-ZigBee bridge ($120) that serves as gateway for BlueBolt control over a wireless ZigBee mesh network and supports up to 40 MD2-ZB plug-in devices throughout the home.

The plug-in modules can accommodate multiple devices plugged into surge strips, though it will monitor and control only that strip as a whole. The $342 a year savings would require about eight MD2-ZB plug-in modules plus the necessary gateway, resulting in about a $1,000 investment in gear alone and a return on that investment in three years. It would also require cutting power to numerous cable or satellite set-boxes with DVRs, flat-panel TVs,  iPod docks, game consoles and other devices to eliminate the standby power (also known as vampire) many electronics continue to consume when “off.” (The savings estimates are based on standby power eliminated for 8 hours a day with a fixed utility rate of 15 cents per kilowatt hour)

The modules and gateway can operate independently of a power conditioner or UPS-based BlueBolt system, or in conjunction with it, says Panamax Furman director of marketing John Benz. A BlueBolt-enabled power conditioner can be connected via Ethernet to the BB-ZigBee gateway, and the interface then sums all the BlueBolt devices into your interface.

An easy and intuitive web interface will be available for users. Basic BlueBolt features such as outlet control, scheduled conservation by cutting power to devices at certain times, energy consumption monitoring, usage budgeting and power event alerts are supported.

Users can receive an email when exceeding an allotted amount of energy and receive notifications of power outages and overvoltage conditions. The interface also shows a thermostat which is not yet available, though Benz hinted at a more robust energy management solution slated for release later in 2012.

Benz says BlueBolt uses the wireless ZigBee technology to connect to two-way communicating smart meters being rolled out by electric utilities as part of their smart grid programs. Most smart meters are expected to employ ZigBee technology. “We chose ZigBee so that we can ultimately connect to smart meters for whole house reporting, and there are other technologies in the works to allow us access to that data.”

He adds, “We want to provide the ability to drill down to the outlet/device/appliance level to give a true understanding of energy consumption to [so users can] make informed decisions regarding scheduling conservation, demand response (from electric utilities) … then add control options on top of that to automate energy savings and reduce utility bills.”

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
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.

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