Home energy management systems and smart thermostats feature a lot of programmable settings that allow users and their utilities to maximize energy savings. Usually these are based on a consumer's schedule or times of peak energy demand for the utility; but what if a thermostat could pre-program itself based on weather forecasts to optimize both a consumer's energy savings and grid performance?
EnergyHub and Earth Networks' new demand response software called e5 will allow smart thermostats to do just that. Using Earth Networks' system of 8,000 weather observation stations around the country (the same that power its WeatherBug apps), the e5 system will use live, neighborhood-level weather conditions and forecasts to anticipate major changes in weather and manage heating and cooling needs in advance, in the most energy-efficient way.
Heat wave coming? The program will start slowly cooling things down ahead of time. Blizzard approaching? It will crank up the heat, all while preventing crippling demand loads on the grid.
The software is launching with the 3M Filtrete Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat that home owners can buy at major home improvement stores. Consumers will also have to voluntarily sign up for a demand response program with their utility.
Users can enter their preferences (hot- or cool-natured?) and schedules, as well as change controls remotely through EnergyHub's website or mobile apps. Earth Networks thinks its focus on user comfort will increase participation in the program.
"Many utilities are interested in rolling out demand response programs, but user adoption is limited because consumers want to retain control of their thermostat and remain comfortable while saving both energy and money,” says Earth Networks Energy Products and Business Development Director Dave Oberholzer in a press release. “In addition, utilities are finding the installation and maintenance of thermostats at customer premises to be time consuming and expensive. The e5 program, developed in partnership with EnergyHub, eliminates these concerns and difficulties by placing easy-to-use tools to control comfort settings into the hands of the consumer."If users can lower their energy use, save money and stay comfortable, that sounds like a good set-up to me.