New Advancements in Home Energy Management

Izzy Connor

With the rise of IOT, home automation technology represents an enormous emerging market, and major brands are battling for pole position in the race for automation dominance. This technology is not only accelerating the adoption of home automation, but also energy management technology. Homeowners can now efficiently monitor and regulate their own energy usage, and innovative technologies in this area keep popping up. Nest continues to enjoy first-mover advantage in the industry, while Apple, Google and Amazon are currently developing their own systems and devices to allow you to monitor and control energy usage at a personal level. These home automation companies are bringing energy efficiency straight to the consumer.

What companies are paving the way in home energy management?

Nest, launched in 2009 and acquired by Alphabet (Google) in 2014, is a provider of design-focused energy management system. The company’s smart hardware products, including a thermostat and smoke detector, focuses on combining data and algorithms with design aesthetics to produce user-friendly hardware. Their ‘Works with Nest’ solutions go further connecting their devices with other products to control and anticipate home customers needs.

Last month, Nest signed a new deal with Southern California Edison as part of the utility’s response to the shutdown of the Aliso Canyon natural-gas storage facility. This deal represents the next step in home energy management, as Nest can now aggregate demand response via their smart devices, saving power and money during peak hours – one step beyond individual home energy management. As more homeowners adopt this smart home technology, Nest’s presence within the energy market will potentially deepen and could ultimately enhance grid stability.

Another major player moving into the market is Apple. The company’s new centralized ‘Home App’ lets you control all of your HomeKit products. With Home, you can manage smart products from one app, and even create Scenes and Room presets. “Leaving home,” for example, would turn off the lights, lock your doors and lower the temperature in the home, enabling overall energy efficiency. Home also works with Siri, so you can speak the commands as well. However, there are currently only 18 companies certified to make HomeKit devices that are compatible with the ‘Home App.’ Among those 18, a total of 48 products have become available for purchase, and many of those products are very similar to one other, which may hinder the adoptability of the app.

Ecobee’s smart thermostat and room sensor

Amazon, in contrast, has opted for an open platform that is far more developer-friendly and more widely compatible. The Amazon Echo has become a key platform for controlling smart home devices, and earlier this year, Amazon’s Alexa Fund directly invested in Ecobee, a developer of wifi-enabled smart thermostats. The biggest differentiator of the Ecobee thermostat from other similar products on the market is that it works with temperature sensors placed around the home. The thermostat will adjust the temperature based on readings from those sensors – in contrast, the Nest thermostat is only able to take temperature readings from the proximate area surrounding the device.

Google’s newly launched Google Home.

Finally, after much speculation, Google Home was released this week. Home is powered by the Google Assistant, which is a new take on Google’s voice-powered search and Google Now. While Google has not yet opened up Assistant to third-party developers, it does already integrate with Nest. On top of Google Home, Google’s TensorFlow gives your home the ability to learn your behavior/daily routine and therefore can anticipate when you will need to use a particular device at what time of day. It is expected that Google will open up Home/Assistant to its developer ecosystem, leading to a diverse set of applications and functions to fit the ever-changing needs of people and homes. Beyond Nest, there is great potential for automated energy-savings as more devices become integrated.

Major players are taking on the smart home market from different angles and products, which is leading to a wide range of smart home capabilities. While Nest is ramping up its demand-response initiatives and working directly with utilities, will other companies seek to provide more energy efficient applications? Will we see Ecobee (or another start-up) make the leap to demand-response revenues and/or grid interaction? Is demand-response truly the next big play as more homeowners buy smart thermostats and other IoT-connected devices?

We will continue to monitor this fast-moving market and track new innovations, deals, and companies.

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  • jnffarrell1

    Synergy between efficient home appliances, lighting, passive and active solar can be managed by Nest for huge homeowner savings:
    Efficient appliances can reduce use by 90% when scheduled by a smart hub. Such a hub can do more if it can control window blinds in real time and/or schedule home battery charge/discharge within a home. Most of the cost savings come from a smart home assist to the owner. Utility control of homeowners may help grid stability and load management but smart homes would make utility control moot and better protect homeowners in the event of a grid outage.

  • Kary

    Much of the savings of Nest type products is totally imaginary, or even energy wasting. For example, turning the heat up again because you turned the heat up at a similar time previously. About the only thing I’ve heard that would be energy saving would be to delay the house warming up if you’re going to be home late. That savings would probably be insignificant. These are convenience products, not energy saving products.

    • Mike Raffety

      Kary, it appears you do not understand how smart thermostats work, please read up before commenting further. They are proven to save quite a lot of energy.

      • Kary

        Mike, it appears you make assumptions about others which are not true. So think before you post: “Do I have a way of knowing this?” I’ll leave with the following thought: “Don’t believe the hype.”

        • Mike Raffety

          It’s not hype, it’s real audited numbers. Smart thermostats save a lot of energy.

          • Kary

            Against constant temperature.

      • Kary

        As a follow up, I can’t believe you actually linked to a manufacturer’s site to post proof something works. That shows you’re incredibly naive and gullible.

        • Mike Raffety

          “According to two independent studies and one internal study, the Google-owned company claims on average the Nest Learning Thermostat saved U.S. customers around 10 to 12 per cent on their heating bills and around 15 per cent on their cooling bills.” (with links to sources)

          • Kary

            And if you click that and then other links you’ll get to the point where it’s as against a constant temperature because they assume people are too stupid to program a thermostat. So yes, large energy savings for stupid people, but not for the rest of us.

            We’re talking about putting heat (or cooling) into a room. Absent running the heat less you’re not going to save money, and the only way to save money is to turn the heat down for sufficient periods of time. Turn it down for too little time and you’ll waste money. Turn it up because the heat was turned up at an earlier similar time (my original claim) and you’ll waste money.

            You can also waste money if the “swing” on your thermostat is set too tight for your system to operate efficiently, but the Nest doesn’t have adjustable swing.

            Also, I don’t know if they fixed this, but before Nest thermostats on certain systems would cycle the main system on for short times to keep the batteries charged (systems without a certain wire running to the thermostat). Huge waste of energy–it would be like running your car to charge your cell phone.

          • Mike Raffety

            Now you’re just making stuff up. There’s no need to cycle the furnace or A/C to get power to the thermostat. It’s clear you are not at all familiar with the subject. The experts are clear on the value of a smart thermostat.

          • Kary

            No, you’re the one who is ignorant and gullible. I’m surprised you don’t know more about the product you bought, but it isn’t surprising that people who spend a lot of money on an overly expensive product think it is great. That’s human nature and you’re behavior here is a great example of that.

            But as to the topic, again it’s only on certain systems that lack a certain wire from the furnace. Here is one article on it–they are not hard to find, but I haven’t researched whether there was a fix.

            I research products I buy, and if I were going to buy a smart thermostat the Nest would be the last product I would buy. They are not the best in the field, but there is little reason to buy such a product, so I don’t. They are almost all hype.

          • Kary

            I just realized you’re the same person who assumed I didn’t know anything about smart thermostats. It’s now apparent you’re the one who doesn’t know much about them. You’ve just fallen for company sales pitches and follow up marketing and still think you’ve made a good decision. Newsflash–you didn’t. You were suckered by corporate America. Do you know anything about Nest? Are you aware of the problems they’ve had with their smoke detectors? Are you aware of the issues Google has had internally with them? Nest is not a great company.

          • Mike Raffety

            Lol, OK, you have a nice day now. (I also have two Protects, and I’m very familiar with Nest as a company, and as part of Google — and no, I’m not an employee or investor.)

          • Kary

            That doesn’t change the fact that you came in here claiming I didn’t understand the product, and I’ve proven I knew a lot more about it than you do. And that’s the reason I don’t own it. It’s just an expensive device that doesn’t save money, and can actually increase energy use.

          • Mike Raffety

            And yet, the facts prove you wrong. You can have your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts.

          • Kary

            The material you linked to said that it was against a constant temperature. That is a fact. The link I provided indicated the problems with power stealing. That is a fact. If the Nest turns up the heat because you did so last week, that wastes energy. That is a fact.

            Like I said, it’s human nature for people to think the things they buy that cost money were worthwhile. You are proving that fact too!