Powerhouse Dynamics, the company behind the circuit-level eMonitor residential energy monitoring system, has announced a commercial version of its product, called the c-Series, for commercial and light commercial use.
In addition to monitoring electricity usage at the circuit level, the c-Series eMonitor will be able to control HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems through a wireless Radio Thermostat Corp. thermostat and via the building’s Wi-Fi network.
The c-Series monitors will come in 15-circuit, 25-circuit and 45-circuit versions, with virtually no limit on adding systems to monitor more circuits. The architecture from the residential system will also be different: Instead of running wires from CT (current transformers) sensors to a processor located near an electrical box, the c-Series will transmit the signals wirelessly from the electrical box to an Internet gateway.
Users will access the system on a web-based portal, like the residential version, and an iPhone app will be available. (Other smartphone apps are due later in the year.) Business and building owners will also be able to control the wireless thermostat settings through the web portal and receive alerts on energy usage through HVAC as well as alerts on their energy costs.
Business owners can also use the system to track the energy usage of certain appliances, like refrigerators, over time; perform benchmarking; see data such as energy cost per square foot; and receive diagnostics and alerts.
“Convenience stores and restaurants are targets for us because they’re so energy intensive,” says Jay Fiske, Powerhouse Dynamics vice president of business development. “Owners can drill down to see where your outliers are and to limit worst practices and enhance best practices.”
The Promise of Light Commercial
Fisk and Powerhouse believe there is a promising market in the light commercial space—and a real need to fill a gaping hole not served by large building management systems.
“Energy is a substantial pain point. A lot of these operations have low profit margins,” he says. “One of interesting things we’ve heard is, for small commercial markets, the person thinking of energy is thinking of many other things. They’re not necessarily energy experts and want a system to enable them to make intelligent decisions on how to spend money on energy.”
“Charter” versions of the system will roll out in July, and general availability will be in September. Fiske declined to announce pricing at this time, but there will be hardware costs and service fees. (The residential model also charges a subscription.)
However, Fiske did say that an ROI (return on investment) could be under a year, and that savings of 15 percent to 20 percent by having information on energy use is “well within the realm of possibility.”
Powerhouse Dynamics should meet with far more success in the light commercial market than in the residential space, which is still very much forming and where many homeowners do not yet see a compelling need for energy monitoring.
“The commercial market is a more focused sale,” Fiske says. “Operations are often spending $3,000 to $9,000 a month on electricity, and they consider it an uncontrollable expense. These are people being measured on their financial performance, and they’re saying if you provide a product of service to save me money, this is a no-brainer for me.”
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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