August 10, 2010
| by Steven Castle
If you want to see the future of energy monitoring, look to smart, two-way communicating thermostats. Or more specifically, look to a software company called EcoFactor.
The EcoFactor software adjusts the setting of a thermostat a degree or two, depending on the current weather conditions. This may not seem like much, but turning an air conditioner or furnace down just 1 degree can result in savings of 1 percent to 3 percent in energy costs.
Just by measuring the energy being used, EcoFactor can tell things about a home to help people save. “[The software] can’t tell the difference between bad insulation and old windows, but when someone does change their windows, we can do a before and after and calculate a return on investment,” says Scott Hublou, senior vice president of products for EcoFactor.
EcoFactor will also offer recommendations to homeowners. “Because we’re measuring the HVAC system and thermal performance of the house, we can see degradations of the system performance, like an air filter that needs changing. Or it can be something like a blown duct, which the owners may not know is costing them money,” says Hublou.
“Sophistication is going to come not through the hardware level, but through the software, which will become more and more complex. I don’t think thermostats are smart and should be smart,” Hublou says. “They just need to get information and be able talk.”
EcoFactor is rolling out its services in the Dallsa-Fort Worth area through local utility Oncor. Participants pay $19.99 for the first six months, which also covers the cost of a thermostat and the installation. After that they’ll pay $8.99 a month to stay connected to EcoFactor. There’s no word yet on retail availability. EcoFactor may also look to make its service available through dealer networks.
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