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Home Energy Management

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Home automation is a broad term that is very popular and typically covers several areas in the home or office. When you refer to home automation, you should include home security, home entertainment, and home energy management. Many companies offer home automation packages that include all three areas. Some companies concentrate on one area, such as security. The home energy management field is new and expanding rapidly in the last couple of years, with many great ideas put in to action and being made available today for the home consumer as well as companies with offices and buildings.

A good home energy management system should accomplish several basic goals: show you how much energy you are using, show you how much individual devices are using, offer suggestions for improvement, and optionally provide remote monitoring and control. According to Intel, you can save 15% just by becoming aware of how energy is used in your home. They also claim that you can save another 15% by actively managing energy usage. Holistic home energy management systems incorporate not just a software interface, but energy generation, energy storage, as well as using the most efficient electronics and appliances. This page will examine several really well thought out home energy management products available today.

Comparing Home Energy Management to Home Automation

  • Home Energy Management Can be a part of a Home Automation System

    Some of the features that incidentally provide home energy management are lighting dimming, appliance and light on-off scheduling, and heating and air conditioning away setting. In other words, home automation control and programmable thermostats allow you to set inside temperatures when you leave for work or just before you come home from work.

    a highly endowed home automation controller
    Home Automation Controller Can Also Provide Some Home Energy Management

  • Home Automation Emphasizes Convenience

    A universal remote control is usually the primary user interface to a home automation system. The remote control allows access to all of the equipment in the entertainment center.

    universal remote for home automation
    A Universal Remote Control is Typically at the Center of a Home Automation System.

  • Home Energy Management Emphasizes Awareness

    A good home energy management system gives the residents a good sense of what, where, and how much power they are using. A good basic system would be a smart meter that let's you know how much power is coming in the your dwelling. Although, it does not give information on individual loads in the house, you can manually deduce how much a device is using by monitoring the smart meter when an appliance is running.

    A more advanced system would have sensors attached to power lines going to each appliance or electrical load and would data log power using information to a console. The console would then make the data user friendly and display it in a way that reveals potential excessive load issues.

Some Features Included in Home Energy Management

  • Monitoring Energy Usage

    Awareness of power use. Identify problems and opportunities to save. "Where am I using my electricity, is that a good use, what can I do to improve?" The home energy management system should reveal electric loads that are grossly abusive energy wasters. For example, a refrigerator with a freezer defroster that comes on during peak rate hours. Or, kids that leave their computer monitors on 24 hours a day, even while in school or sleeping.

  • Peak Rate Notification

    The power utility sells electricity at various rates through the day and seasons. Peak rates occur during periods of high demand. For example, summer afternoon rates are typically the highest, because everyone is running their air conditioners. Currently, most utility companies do not report hourly rate information to customers. It would be nice to know when you are paying the highest rates, so that you could curtail your power usage, and take advantage of lower cost off peak rates.

    home energy monitor
    A Simple Home Energy Monitor Display

    With a home monitoring system, you can find out when you are using the most power.

  • Set Schedules for Optimum Savings

    Home energy management packages can alert you and suggest the time times during the days or night to use certain appliances. For example, it may be best to use your electric clothes dryer between mid-night and 6:00 A.M. Modern appliances allow you to set schedules for usage, either locally or centrally.

  • Remote Control and Monitoring

    Should be able to monitor and control devices in your home from your smart phone, tablet, lap top, or any web connected device. Whole house control systems have all the bells and whistles including curtain control, security systems with surveillance cameras and monitors, multiple remote controls, and can even cook your breakfast.

  • Wireless Communication Between Appliances and Control

    By using wireless scheduling and dimming, systems, homeowners can automate lights, fans, pumps, thermostats, audio/video equipment, sprinklers, motorized drapes/blinds/doors, security systems and more. With sensor technology, lights in unoccupied areas can be dimmed or turned off and motorized blinds can automatically close blocking excess light and heat from entering a room, with the result of reducing air conditioning costs.

    There are many protocols (device communication standards) available today. For example the Zigbee Alliance as created a very flexible and scalable open standard that can be implemented by appliance and heating and air conditioning makers today. Because it is an open standard, all devices using the Zigbee wireless standard can talk to each other and their controller.

    There are millions of devices around the world that use the Zigbee standard. One parts manufacturer based in Hong Kong, CityGrow, offers a system that includes a full array of products to make residential energy efficiency possible. Parts such as power sockets, adaptor sockets, switches and displays, portals, USB ports and building meters provide the basic tools needed to realize energy efficiency. Because all of their devices are wireless, the Energy Optimization System can be installed quickly with minimal impact.

    Some of the components that can be included are lights, blinds, switches, dimmers, and wall mounted control key panels. Installation is simple and can be install by a normal electrician.

    The Zigbee based devices can also be controlled by Ipad and Android applications. These applications allow for programming devices based on budgeting and energy management. Owners will be able to see and manage their energy consumption throughout the house.

    CityGrow Using Zigbee Wireless Control for Blinds and Fans
    CityGrow Using Zigbee Wireless Control for Blinds and Fans

  • Smart Meters

    Smart Meters can communicate with the utility as well as appliances in the home. Smart meters can notify "smart" appliances of electricity rate information and notify when is the best time to use. Using a Zigbee wireless based Home Energy Gateway inside the home, the user interface provides device communication and control, sophisticated thermostat, usage records, electrical consumption records for each of your appliances, year to year comparison of kilo-watt consumption, pre-programming of all key appliances taking into account utility rate information.

    Freescale technology Smart Meter Interface
    Freescale Technology Smart Meter Touch Screen Interface

  • Light Dimming

    No matter what types of lights you use, reducing there output can save energy and money. By dimming your lights by 10% you save 10% electricity. By dimming your lights by 50% you save 45% on electricity costs for that lamp. Installing automated or manual dimmers in place of your existing light switches is like picking low hanging fruit. Its a low cost refurbishment with big potential savings.

  • Occupancy Sensors

    Occupancy sensors, also called motion detectors, detect when there is someone alive in the room. Simply, if there is no movement, the sensor will trigger the lights to turn off, thereby saving electricity. These types of devices have been around for years. Using the basic decision trigger, if you happen to be in the room studying at your desk, and don't move for some time, the lights will turn off while you are studying. So you have to wave your hands to get the lights back on. Now days occupancy sensors are much more sophisticated. They can be controlled by a home energy management system, they can have their sensitivity adjusted, or they can be overridden.

    Occupancy sensors these days sense not only based on motion, but using other detectors they can tell if you are in the room sleeping and when you have left the room for some time. Occupancy sensors can bebatteryoperated and communicate wirelessly with your light switches. They use lithium batteries that last up to 10 years.

    You can choose the idle time, typically 5, 15, 30 minutes. They can also be set to detect someone standing or sitting.

Some Examples of Home Energy Management Systems

Powerhouse Dynamics

Check out this video of Powerhouse Dynamics' CEO showing off his power monitoring system that monitors and reports all potential electrical energy waste in the home.

General Electric's Nucleus

General Electric has created smart appliances that can interface with a small box called a "Nucleus". The device attaches to an interior wall of a home and communicates with the utlity company as well as the GE smart appliances. The home owner can view information collected by the Nucleus through a web browser interface. Many types of data can be viewed such as power rates, rolling black-outs, and consumption information. The Nucleus can report rate information an appliance. The GE appliance can schedule usage to happen during minimal electrical rated periods and can delay usage when rates are high. The Nucleus can track energy usage by device allowing you to see what each appliance is using.

Intel's Home Energy Management Dashboard

Intel has created a simple easy to use interface for home energy management called the Dashboard. This table or wall mount device allows users to simple tell it they are away or home by rocking a bar on top of the Dashboard. It then manages which devices and lamps in the home will be turned on or off. The device also offers a sort of built in paging system for the family. A son can leave a video message for mom, informing her of his schedule.

Panasonic Home Energy System

The Panasonic home energy system, not only includes home energy management, but also energy creation. You can add a fuel cell and/or solar panels to create energy for your home. The system also includes energy storage in the form of Lithium batteries.

On the energy consumption side, Panasonic also sells smart appliances as well as a smart controller/interface. The controller monitors energy usage of each appliance and lamp and reports the information through an interface so simple a young child could understand.

Home Energy Management Youtube Play List

We've put together a play list of great videos from trade shows and manufacture web sites that you should really enjoy. The play list will continue to grow.

Home Efficiency Tips