New Smart Meter Technology Can Tell Your Appliances Apart

Navetas/Screen capture

Smart meters are great devices for tracking your overall energy use. You can see patterns in spikes and lows depending on time of day or time of year and make changes to bring that total number down, but if you want to delve deeper into the energy use of your house and see exactly what is sucking energy when, you have to install sensors to track individual appliances and other power loads. But that could change soon.

UK startup company Navetas has developed a new smart meter technology that, in addition to tracking overall energy use, is able to distinguish the AC unit, TV, refrigerator and all of the various power loads in a user's house from one another. It calls its technology "energy disaggregation," a process where its computer algorithms can be used to learn the different power loads in a house over a week or two depending on how often each is used. The information can then be presented in-home, on the web and via mobile devices, as well as sent back to the utility.

Navetas CEO Chris Saunders describes the technology, saying "we go into a process where we identify the core elements of an appliance -- for instance, we can identify heating loads, induction motor loads, consumer electronics loads and things like that. We then look at associations between all of those within the home to piece together what is occurring, and to identify discrete appliances.”

This type of technology has benefits for the consumer and the utilities. The consumer can see exactly what power loads are driving up their energy use and make specific changes, which can lead to much better energy efficiency in the home. Utilities will be able to see what power loads are creating bigger demand on their side, allowing them to more effectively implement demand response programs for heating and cooling and, eventually, things like electric car charging.

Navetas is partnering with smart meter maker Sensus in the U.S. to pair its technology with the Sensus meters and is already carrying out pilot programs in the UK with three utilities. The algorithms can also be used to identify natural gas and water use in a home and Sensus makes meters for those applications too, meaning this technology could be a triple threat for home efficiency.

You can view a demo of the technology here.

Tags: Appliances | Energy Efficiency | Smart grid