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Homeowners Energy Empowerment Coming from Smartphone-Controlled Thermostats
Mar 12, 2013
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The web-connected home thermostat is one of the most promising developments for enabling customer "energy empowerment," according to the 2013 Clean Energy Trends report from Clean Edge, Inc.

The report describes how the home--as well as commercial buildings--are making better use of technology to monitor energy use data for energy efficiency decision-making and allowing for easier implementation of energy saving strategies.

The report profiles one such device from Nest Labs, started by a couple of former Apple iPod/iPhone engineers. The Nest thermostat is a $250 Web-connected device that learns from homeowner usage patterns, motion sensors, weather forecasts, and other data to adjust home heating and air-conditioning for maximized efficiency. A smart phone app provides the user interface. The one-millionth device is expected to be shipped by the company in the summer of 2013.

The report also describes how startups and established firms are partnering to deliver utility usage data to consumers. Opower is one, selling a Honeywell smart thermostat and providing consumers with energy data. Their apps let users compete with neighbors for the best energy usage. A social media app even lets homeowners compete with Facebook friends.

Emerson, Johnson Controls, and Schneider Electric are examples of other hardware suppliers combining thermostats with wireless software from smaller companies.

Utility companies are also getting involved and driving the use of smartphone-based thermostat control, Clean Edge reported. One energy plan from Texas utility company Reliant Energy gets homeowners an installed Nest thermostat. It is one of seven utility companies that are a part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Green Button program, which allows customers enabled with a smart meter to track their energy use on their utility's web site. Thirty other utilities across the United States have committed to being a part of the initiative.

The report also noted that new smart, web-connected thermostats will be launching in 2013, including one from Emerson using energy analytics software from startup Bidgely.

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