Will 2011 be the year home energy management finally takes off? It could well be. There are many positive signs, such as the very large fact that people want energy efficiency in their homes. There are still some factors that need to come together, such as the crucial marriage between energy monitoring and home control systems, but this should happen soon. Smart grid services and smart appliances will lag behind, for now. And as research firm Parks Associates recently forecast, non-utility based home energy management systems will outpace utility-based systems for the next several years.
My prediction: By the end the year energy management will be a subject on many more people’s tongues.
1. People want energy efficiency.
Pike Research and the Shelton Group have both found strong consumer interest for energy efficiency. Pike’s “Smart Grid Consumer Survey” of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 47 percent favor home energy management, and 44 percent smart appliances, outpacing demand response and smart meters. The Shelton group’s Green Living Pulse 2010 report found that 84 percent of Americans seek green products, and that men were somewhat more interested than women in buying or renting an energy-efficient home (67 percent vs. 61 percent).
2. More home control and energy monitoring will work together.
Software startup Eragy already has an application that works with Control4 home control systems, and plans to add high-voltage relays to shut off appliances automatically to save energy. We are bound to see more home control systems hooking up with energy monitors to automatically turn appliances and devices off for energy savings. Will we see this in other energy management systems soon?
3. Big service providers will roll out basic energy management solutions.
In case you haven’t heard, big service providers like ADT, Comcast and Verizon are rolling out inexpensive “connectivity” solutions for the mass-market, including some energy management applications. This will no doubt serve to introduce many people to the benefits of energy management in the home. But can the big boys do these systems well? That remains to be seen.
4. Smart grid rollouts will continue.
Control4 recently announced a partnership with SilverSprings Network to make its EMS 100 system available for some demand response programs, and the company is also partnering with AEP Ohio to pilot customer experiences in home energy management. GE is looking at a number of pilot programs for its connected home solutions. And that’s just scratching the surface. We will see a lot more smart grid rollouts that include some home energy management solutions.
5. More smart and connected appliances will become available.
There were quite a few appliances on display at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. LG showed smart appliance solutions, as did GE, while kitchen appliance brands Sub-Zero and Wolf showed connected home network solutions with Control4. The Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances are reportedly available, but we’ll have to wait for smart appliances connected to a smart grid from companies like GE and LG.
6. Architects, green builders and designers are starting to address plug load.
A funny thing happens when you reduce the energy used by lighting and HVAC systems. Electric plug load becomes a bigger piece of the energy-consumption pie. Green builders and architects for about the first time were exposed to addressing plug load demand at the recent Greenbuild show in Chicago. About time, we say.
7. Commercial building automation is gaining momentum.
With commercial green building and LEED certifications, commercial building owners and managers are starting to look for comprehensive solutions that can save energy and money. Sensor devices are also now less expensive and of better quality. All this points toward more building automation. “Attitudinal barriers falling away. We’re increasingly able to articulate to our customers the benefits [of energy management,]” says Steven E. Kuehn at building control giant Siemens. More building automation in the commercial sector will trickle down into more home energy management.
8. Home and TV energy ratings will take effect.
Staring in May we’ll see EnergyGuide labels on TVs to give consumers an idea on the energy usage of the TVs they buy. This will raise awareness of energy efficiency in anyone looking at a new TV. That’s got to be a good thing. And by late in the year, homes could have energy ratings as well, thanks to a Home Energy Score program being rolled out by the Department of Education. This could open the market for more home energy retrofits.
9. EPA battle will put energy in the spotlight.
Some Republicans, whose party has assumed power in U.S. House of Representatives, vow to battle the Environmental Protection Agency on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. This could be a very public fight—and while it might energize those who don’t believe in climate change or don’t want to address the issue, a public forum on the issue can only be a good thing for energy management. More and more people over time see the need for energy efficiency, if not to benefit the environment then to save money.
10. Here come the EVs!
There’s the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, and more plug-ins and hybrid cars expected in this year or next. And that means charging stations in the home, which means some sort of control system for smart charging to time-of-use electricity rates and your own preferences. And, if and when V2G (vehicle to grid) two-way power becomes available, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use some of your car’s juice to power something else in the house, if needed? Sure, some of this is still a couple of years or more away, but it’s coming.
11. Gas and fuel prices are predicted to rise.
Five dollars a gallon for gasoline? Some say yes, some say no way. But most everyone agrees that energy prices will likely rise. And that definitely includes electricity rates. That only underscores the need for energy efficiency. It’s here. People want it. And do you know what? We have the technologies to be energy efficient, while enhancing our comfort and convenience. As more people become aware of this, the market for home energy management can only take off.