January 10, 2012
| by Steven Castle
One of the big words of the week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is “Smart.” As in Smart home, smart TV, smart connectivity. Smart. Smart, smart. And that’s a very good thing, because the term is often being associated with home connectivity and saving energy.
Even for smart TVs. Panasonic is showing “Viera Smart” TVs, for example, that don’t just focus on Internet content apps, design and picture quality and easy operation, but also energy savings with auto sensors.
And it seems that almost everyone has an energy management system of some kind—or can show a concept for one. There is, indeed, a wide range of energy management options being shown at CES.
One of the coolest ones is from Echo Labs. The software comes with Mi Case Verde’s well-regarded Vera Z-Wave-based controller. (It will work with Vera 3 or the Vera 2, the latter with a firmware upgrade.) It can measure whole-house electricity use with energy monitors from TED or Blue Line Innovations. A basic interface showing total power consumed, proportional demand. A free web-based Ergy Lite interface is also available, and paid version ($40 for two years service) delivers high, low and average energy use of each connected Z-Wave device.
Allure’s neat EverSense thermostat has a proximity sensor that detect when you are a preset distance from your house and turns down the thermostat, so no more trying to remember. It’s in NRG’s showcase of energy efficiency systems, including NRG’s own Reliant brand of energy manager, dubbed e-Sense, which the company has rolled out to its utility customers in Texas. It provides energy management, a weekly summary email, usage comparison to your neighbors, and other functions, and it’s just available to utility customers … for now. Lutron is also showing its wireless RadioRA lighting system C-L CFL and LED dimmers and its motorized cellular shade there.
Hardware giant Lowe’s is showing its Iris system to become available in the second quarter branded from AlertMe in the U.K. Iris will be a Z-Wave and ZigBee-based system with a hub and connected Z-Wave devices and prices affordably. According to AlertMe CEO Mary Turner, smartphones, cloud services and connected devices have opened the market for home energy management services that take advantage of these platforms. “This means that home automation is ready to take off,” she says. “But it also has to be affordable. It’s no longer just for the affluent.”
A promising startup in this category is FutureDash, whose small new EnergyBuddy comes with two CT clamps to measure total power for $100 and with a couple of smart plugs for adding devices for $149. The EnergyBuddy can change color depending on how much juice you’re using, or low and high electricity prices. It collects its info from Ethernet, Wi-Fi and a proprietary 433Hz technology. Although it can provide a web-based interface, the data remains in the fist-sized EnergyBuddy. Chief Technology Officer Allan Hundhausen says the data stays off the cloud due to privacy concerns about thieves, law enforcement, even employers who may want to check up on your energy usage. “We’re trying to put more of the intelligence into the device itself, and it can evolve to provide more cloud services.” It also has iPad, iPhone and Android apps.
LG is showing its Home Energy Management System (HeMS) that can work with its smart and appliances. It’s a smart looking interface that shows how much electricity you’ve used, what you can use, scheduling of events, weather, what your LG appliances are consuming, and offers green tips to save energy. Only problem is that and the connected appliances aren’t here yet—at least in the North American market. Coming soon, perhaps?
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