Is Home Energy Management Finally Going Mainstream?
New advancements around thermostats, wireless, home automation and more energize market.
November 19, 2013 by Steven Castle

I’ve said this before, probably too many times, but it finally appears that there is truly a strong interest in home energy management systems, at least among some of the exhibits perused at this fall’s CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) Expo in Denver.

The big news was that Nest Labs has announced a developer program for integration with other manufacturers’ products—through Nest’s cloud—and its first partner is Control4, so users of that home control system can see the temperature on a touchscreen or mobile device and turn the thermostat up or down. This should appear next year, though no programming or scheduling of the Nest is available this way.

Nest could serve as a bridge between some home control systems and appliances or other devices, gathering data on usage patterns to shut devices or appliances off, dim lights or help manage scenes and events, depending on the home’s occupancy, HVAC usage and other factors.

The real power of Nest, I believe, is behind the thermostat, to the data it collects on its users’ habits, and employing that data to make other systems more efficient. Nest is involved with some utility smart grid programs, which will likely become entwined with home system connectivity to save energy based on utility pricing signals or demand. And Nest should be at the center of it all.

Nest will integrate with Control4

In addition, there are a slew of products using inexpensive wireless Z-Wave technology, and standing out is the easily retrofittable enerG, which uses Aeon Labs devices to read whole-house electricity consumption levels at the electrical panel and plug-in modules to read individual devices around the home, as well as operate Z-Wave–based lighting modules, switches, electronic locks and fetch video from Z-Wave cameras—with mobile and smartphone apps, of course. It has lights and thermostat scheduling capabilities, Smart Schedules that learn your patterns, and a GeoFence that allows geo-location services that use the GPS in your smartphone so you can program a thermostat to start heating or cooling a home—or turn down—when you’re a certain distance away. Packages start at $429 for a gateway hub, a thermostat and two smart enerG switches, and monthly access fees start at $30 a month.

Various enerG interfaces

Savant is adding to its SmartEnergy product with Wi-Fi–connected smart plugs that can monitor the power usage of individual devices, while providing surge protection, as well as Wi-Fi–connected smart surge strips with measurable outlets and Wi-Fi current sensors for measuring those devices where an electrical outlet isn’t available. On the HVAC side, Savant is introducing an 8-zone SmartClimate system with attractive single-gang Circa Style thermostats that provide clear views of current temperature, set-points, system and fan modes, system status and setup functions.

Savant is bringing more Wi-Fi to its SmartEnergy

Last but not least, let’s hope, is Crestron, which showed a scaled-back residential version of its commercial-grade Fusion EM energy management dashboard, coupled with its Green Light energy monitoring hardware and wireless occupancy sensors to automatically shut off devices. You can get real-time energy usage at the circuit level and see consumption by day, week or month. Fusion EM can integrate with wireless thermostats to monitor and streamline HVAC usage, as well as gas and water flow sensors that send pulse signals. It’s very powerful and very cool (though potentially very pricey). I’m told by Crestron that the residential version is still in development, but keep your fingers crossed.

Crestron’s Fusion EM dashboard could be coming to homes

Also Check Out:
Ways to Cool Your Energy Bill
Where Green Meets High Tech
Solar-Powered Smart House Tests Energy Storage

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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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