If you’re interested in monitoring your home’s energy use, there have been two basic options: expensive systems starting at $5,000 that can give you detailed breakdowns of your gas, electric and water use—or inexpensive systems that can give you the basics of your total electric usage. There hasn’t been much in between.
So what if you could get some pretty fancy energy monitoring and some basic home control on top of it for free … from your electric utility?
That’s what home control manufacturer Control4 is planning with its EMS-100 energy monitoring systems, initially to be made available through electric utilities. The system consists of an EC-100 5-inch tabletop touchscreen that doubles as a processor, a wireless bridge that reads the data from your electric meter and feeds that to the EC-100 via radio frequency-based ZigBee protocol, and a ZigBee-enabled WT-100 programmable thermostat.
The EMS-100 will also be able to perform some home automation, including turning the outside lights off at sunset. It comes with features such as a weather forecast, stock quotes, quote of the day and IP camera support.
But the real trick is in how the system provides energy monitoring and responds to incoming data from an electric utility. “We take your energy data and create energy use comparisons and recommendations for energy savings,” says Control4 vice president of strategic development Paul Nagel.
“The EC-100 has integrated analytics that [convert] meter data to actionable information about the customer’s energy use and opportunities to save energy. It determines the load factor of your home and can predict how long your HVAC system should take to reach a given set point. If the system is taking significantly longer than this time, the EC-100 will inform you that something about your home has changed. A door or window might be open or something is blocking the air filter or the air filter needs to be changed. Left unchanged, this new state will cost you $5 more in energy costs per day.”
As Nagel explains, the EC-100’s analytics help homeowners optimize the settings of their programmable thermostats. It can also monetize any changes in settings that are made over time. The system, in effect, provides an automatic energy “cruise control” for your home.
Even better, devices need not be connected to a power monitoring system for the EMS-100 to see it and quantify its energy use. “There are many devices in your home that have an energy signature that can be detected by the EMS-100 analytics without a monitoring device. These include electric water heater, refrigerators, dryers, washers, dishwashers and space heaters,” says Nagel.
The system will also help homeowners with data coming from a utility via a two-way smart grid, such as demand response services, in which certain appliances can be shut off during peak energy usage times to save on rates. “The EMS-100 utilizes the color LCD screen and audible announcements (with multiple language support) for local notification [of demand response and other events]. Customers may select to receive an email, Tweet or other mechanism to be remotely notified,” he says.
Though the EMS-100 will initially be available to the lucky customers of some utilities, Nagel foresees the system becoming available to others, perhaps via retail outlets.
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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