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Energy Gets Smart with the Internet of Things

Digi International
June 06, 2013

As the weather gets warmer, you might be thinking about your energy bills. So are innovators, technologists and environmentalists who are working to use the latest technology to decrease energy consumption and lower costs for individuals and businesses alike. Energy is one of the sectors that can be impacted the most by the Internet of Things- another great area where connected products can improve business effeciencies, our lives and our planet. Heres how.

"A smart thermostat can reduce a homes heating and cooling costs by 10% a year..."-US Department of Energy

Youve probably heard the terms smart grid, smart meter and smart thermostat. But, what are their roles in helping us conserve energy? Internet enabled products such as a thermostat or smart meter connected to a cloud platform can be used to gather large amounts of data for analysis. They can manage our homes devices from anywhere. After analyzing data, we can modify, or have our machines modify, energy usage to ensure our household is running as energy efficient as possible- saving money without sacrificing comfort. The data provided can also eliminate the frustrating guessing game of what the coming months energy bill will be. Tracking usage allows us to know the amount of our bill down to the nearest penny before it arrives in the mail.

An ounce of prevention...

Smart Energy

Another benefit of monitoring energy use is the ability to proactively resolve issues if an appliance begins to run poorly. Imagine if your utility company could notify you of a water leak or issue with your furnace and dispatch a service worker to fix it- all before it turns into a severe issue and costly repair.

Connected products are changing what it means to be energy efficient.

According to the US Department of Energy, 54% of your utility bill is made up of heating and cooling. Many businesses are taking this idea and delivering a simple, yet valuable, service to homeowners giving us greater control of our thermostats.

For example, EcoFactor is using the Internet of Things to make customers homes smart. The companys internet enabled thermostat responds to personal preferences, seasonal changes and even weather forecasts. EcoFactors utilizes Device Cloud to offer their own cloud based software which is fully automated, so customers never have to worry about adjusting their thermostat.

Demand response (DR) programs also help to save money and prevent outages on the energy grid. EcoFactors thermostat uses energy in the most efficient way possible by responding to current demand along the power grid. We can also optimize our own behavior if we know when peak hours fall, so maybe you wait to do the laundry once peak hours have past to save money.

Several smart grid pilots have been springing up in the past few years due to funding from the federal government. It is also proving to have a large impact on the recovering economy. Recent numbers from SmartGrid.gov show that $2.96 billion has been invested to support new Smart Grid projects, which has resulted in economic output totaling $6.8 billion. The Smart Grid is an enormous opportunity both economically and environmentally.

Earlier this year, Ecofactor announced its participation in a 15,000 home National Grid smart grid pilot in Worchester, Massachusetts. The smart grid technology will be fully deployed by 2014. EcoFactors data analytics and demand response events will maximize the energy usage of the pilots participants.

Led by Batelle Memorial Institute, currently the largest smart energy pilot in the US is the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project with over 60,000 participants. This $178 million project aims to quantify the costs and benefits of smart grid technology, advance cyber security, and bring to light smart grid business models. The pilot will run for 5 years in 5 Northwest states including Idaho, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon. Technologies used in the pilot include smart meters, programmable thermostats, and load control devices.

The Internet of Things is making homes smarter, energy bills smaller and customers happier. Connected products have simplified the process of managing business and home energy consumption and have made it more affordable. Conserving energy no longer means just turning the lights off when we leave home- it means using data and smart devices to inform us on how to save energy. Saving the planet also means saving money, so what will you do this summer to reduce your energy use?