Home energy management systems (HEMS) allow homeowners to reduce overall energy consumption by helping them identify and eliminate unnecessary energy use. The systems typically use temperature sensors, weather-related data and other information to control the operation of home appliances, as well as home lighting, heating and air-conditioning systems. For example, an energy management system can help homeowners reduce energy costs by automatically operating washers and dryers during off-peak hours or by adjusting thermostat settings in response to changing weather conditions.
Balancing Cost and Comfort
Energy management systems are designed to give homeowners a way to reasonably balance energy savings with convenience and comfort. The systems typically work in conjunction with smart-metering technology to give consumers visibility into their energy use patterns. Many emerging HEMS tools support data visualization capabilities that allow consumers to view how their usage of appliances, such as computers, TVs and refrigerators, affects home energy use. The idea is that consumers who are armed with such information will modify their behavior to better manage home energy consumption. Some networked HEMS support functions that allow them to receive pricing signals from an electric utility thereby allowing consumers to make even more informed decisions about their energy consumption habits.
Numerous companies offer HEMS and related home energy management services these days. Among the many products and services are the following:
Vivint Inc. is one of the largest providers of home automation services and technologies in the country. The Provo, Utah-based vendor, currently offers a wide range of home energy management solutions that are designed to help consumers better manage energy use. The company’s range of products in this category include an Internet-enabled smart thermostat that homeowners can use to program temperature settings for up to seven days in advance, using their smartphones or via the web. The company’s smart energy products also include flood and freeze warning sensors, energy efficient bulbs and smart sensors for controlling home appliances, such as lamps and lighting systems.
The Wiser Energy Management System (EMS) from Palatine, Ill.-based Schneider Electric is targeted at both utilities and consumers. It allows homeowners to dynamically reduce or shift their energy consumption during peak hours and ramp it up during off-peak hours. The company offers a somewhat unique capability that allows consumers to use the Web to monitor and manage their home energy use patterns. The technology allows consumers to set home energy budget goals, and to view and adjust their consumption against those goals. The Wiser EMS suite includes smart plugs, smart thermostats and Internet-enabled device controls that allow homeowners to easily shut off or turn on a device using their smart phones or the Internet.
GE’s Brillion home energy management systems were launched last year, and offer many of the same capabilities offered by other major home energy management products. At its core is an innovative data collection device called the Nucleus that is designed to gather, aggregate and present data from a home’s existing smart meter, smart appliances or smart thermostats. Homeowners can use Nucleus to get a real-time view of their energy consumption and the amount they have spent on energy during a particular month or range of days. A Brillion Energy Display device allows utility companies to communicate directly with homeowners on issues such as utility maintenance schedules and pricing changes.