What Do You Want an Energy Management System to Do?

Some people want automated lights and thermostats, but there are other ways to save energy.

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Guess what? Energy management automation and information systems are very appealing to people. Research firm Parks Associates, revealed its findings in its 2010 Residential and Energy Management Survey of more than 1,500 households. Some of the findings are being discussed at Parks’ Smart Energy Summit: Engaging the Consumer, this week in Austin, Texas.

The firm has found that the following percentages of consumers found these features very appealing:

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  • 50 percent—Lights automatically turn off if no one is in the room.

  • 48 percent—Thermostats automatically adjust for comfort when home and savings when not.
  • 48 percent—Know which appliances consume the most electricity.
  • 41 percent—Recommendations to make a home more energy-efficient.
  • 35 percent—Thermostat displays outdoor temperature and weather forecast.
  • 32 percent—Ability to control lights, appliances and thermostat with a computer or mobile phone.

But these aren’t all the things home energy management systems can do.

Here are some other nominations I’d like to make:

Lighting control systems with preset scenes and dimming. Many lighting systems can be set to automatically dim lights by 10 percent to 15 percent, which is not noticeable. And this will save you 10 to 15 percent. Can’t afford a full-blown lighting control system? Look to Z-Wave-enabled products than can turn on and off your lights automatically or remotely.

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Vampire (or phantom) power load shedding. You can use smart surge strips, load control modules that work with an inexpensive control system, or power conditioners with independently controlled (or IP-controllable) outlets for more elaborate audio and video setups. Power can be cut to all those components so they won’t use energy when they aren’t being used.

Motorized window treatments. They tend to cost some bucks, but you can have them open to let in warmth in the cold months and close to help block the sun and save on your cooling costs in the hotter seasons. You can also use them to open automatically for “daylight harvesting,” so you can use natural light instead of electricity.

Home control systems that automatically shut things off while you’re not there, or do so depending on the amount of energy your home is using. (This might be great for the kids’ Xbox!)

Smart car chargers. The electric vehicles are coming! And we’ll need charging options in our homes. Most EVs should have circuitry that can receive a signal from a two-way smart meter, informing it of pricing information, as many utilities introducing smart grid programs will offer Time of Use pricing, in which electric rates will vary throughout the day. With this, you can set your car to charge at the least expensive time. And with an intelligent charging system or home control, you may have even more options.

Smart appliances. They’re coming, but don’t expect to see many this year, outside of smart grid trials and pilot programs. They can connect wirelessly to a two-way smart meter to time cycles for the cheapest times.
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What do you think? What else would you like to see?

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