Photos by Jaymi Heimbuch
EcoFactor is easy to mistake for a smart thermostat, since that's what the user sees. But really, it's not a smart thermostat at all. As Scott Hublou, a co-founder of EcoFactor and its senior vice president for products, puts it, "It's an incredibly dumb thermostat that just listens really well, and talks really well." There is so much buzz around smart appliances these days - devices that will talk to each other, talk to a user interface, talk to your utilities - and one of the biggest problems developers of these various solutions are dealing with is the fact that at some point, consumers hit information overload and programming burn-out. Just how hands on or off people want to be varies, and so do their individual needs on maximizing efficiency for their home in their town in their microclimate. EcoFactor takes all these concerns, bundles it up into one really stupid piece of hardware and one really smart software program, and hands it over to consumers for maximum energy savings. Everyone is calling it a smart thermostat - but it is very much NOT a smart thermostat. It isn't a gadget at all. EcoFactor's system is really more of a data collection and analysis tool that controls a thermostat based on a wide variety of information points. From the indoor temperature, the time of day, the outside weather, consumer habits and so on, EcoFactor adjusts a home's thermostat based on highly personalized information.
"The system calculates each home's individual thermal characteristics, or "dynamic signature," using existing hardware such as a two-way communicating thermostat and/or a gateway device to a broadband Internet connection. With each home's dynamic signature, EcoFactor learns how much energy is required to heat and cool the home."
There is no expensive new thermostat, no complicated dashboards for consumers to monitor throughout the day, no software installation... just a simple piece of equipment that checks data every 60 seconds - collecting 24,000 points of data each day from individual homes, weather stations, and other geographic inputs - and reacts (and predicts) in order to save energy.
The energy savings not only makes consumers happy, since they're saving on a monthly bill, but also makes utilities happy, since it can greatly reduce peak load and reduces the amount of annoyance customers feel during demand response.
EcoFactor is a genuinely smart solution for HVAC systems in homes, which can be the source for as much as 50% of a home's energy bill. The thousands of data points it gathers and analyzes allows for personalized solutions that other "smart" systems can't always achieve. And that is why it was the winner of the Cleantech Open this year. With an intriguing product, a new three-year program running with the Texas utility Oncor to reduce peak demand, and some significant newly earned seed money, we'll likely hear a lot more about EcoFactor in the near future.
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