A Watt Saved Is a Watt Generated
Tom Lombardo posted on May 31, 2015 |

Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” If Ben were around today, he might say something similar about electrical energy. Rather than increasing energy production from traditional or renewable sources, it’s just as effective, and almost always less expensive, to reduce electrical consumption. The electricity saved - referred to as “nega-watts” (negative watts) - comes from a combination of energy efficient appliances and sophisticated control systems.



But it’s not just about total quantity; timing plays an important role as well. Peak demand is big challenge facing grid operators, which is why time of day pricing schemes are being offered to commercial and residential consumers, letting them opt for lower rates for off-peak use and higher rates during peak demand times. By load shifting, consumers can save money and utilities can reduce their use of expensive peak power plants.


The burgeoning field of energy management gives consumers the ability to take advantage of pricing plans that can reduce their electric bills. Let’s look at some of the products that are available for home users; a future article will discuss building automation systems for commercial and industrial customers.


Eddy

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is developing technology that allows homeowners to monitor and control their electricity consumption using a smartphone or a tablet. The product, known as Eddy, is being marketed by HabiDapt. CSIRO’s Brad Sparkes (interesting surname for a guy who works with electricity) gives a brief overview of Eddy:



Eddy allows users to monitor and control their major appliances and see, in real time, how much it’s costing them to run each appliance. Notice how the display shows dollars, not watts or kilowatt-hours. Most consumers don’t care about energy, but everyone wants to save money. For those who have renewable energy generation systems, Eddy also monitors and displays their production.


Image: CSIRO



Eddy also lets consumers set a monthly budget for electricity usage and tells them in real time whether they’re on pace to meet that budget. (Click here to see a simulation of the dashboard.) At the moment Eddy only controls large appliances, but eventually they’ll have smart switches for anything that plugs in. It’s currently undergoing a trial at limited locations in Australia.


WeMo

On the other side of the planet, Belkin developed the WeMo home automation system. WeMo began with smart switching outlets that don’t require professional installation; they plug into existing outlets and allow cloud-based control of appliances using a smartphone or tablet.


Image: Belkin


In addition to the outlets, the WeMo product line now includes smart LED bulbs, webcams, appliances, motion sensors, and alarm systems. There’s even a WeMo Maker that lets engineers, inventors, and hobbyists create custom control systems using the WeMo platform.




Knowledge is Power

Research has shown that when consumers monitor their spending, they’re more likely to spend wisely. When drivers can see their instantaneous gas mileage, they tend to drive more conservatively in order to save fuel. Monitoring and controlling electrical usage gives the same power to consumers at home, allowing users to “game the system” and save money. And that’s a game where everybody wins.



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