Expertise Zone

Itron: Let the Smart Home pay for itself

Itron: Let the Smart Home pay for itself

Itron: Let the Smart Home pay for itself

Guest post from Joe Ballif, Product Manager at Itron

As was evident at last month’s Smart Home World in London, Smart Home systems do a great job of connecting a variety of devices. 

However, so far, this has been primarily used to provide convenience and security for the owner, neither of which has a measurable return on investment.

Now the great thing about Smart Home technology is that all of the pieces are there to do energy management while the Smart Home is ‘doing its day job’.  Smart Homes can control heating and cooling, lighting, window shades, appliances, water heaters, pool pumps, etc. Smart Homes also can talk a variety of wired and wireless technologies and protocols.

If you haven’t noticed, your local electric utility is working hard to generate electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind generation.  Since these sources of electricity generation are variable and only somewhat predictable, the utilities must do a better job of managing electricity usage (demand) in real time.  There are many ways for them to do this: blackouts (definitely not a reasonable option), automatic load control (turning-off large residential and commercial loads such as heating, cooling, water heating, pumps, etc.) and dynamic electricity rates (time of use, critical peak pricing, peak time rebates, peak pricing, current market price, etc.) to encourage change in electricity usage patterns.

Smart metering technologies used around the world use many of the same technologies used in the Smart Home to provide dynamic pricing data, personal electricity usage information and remote control (turn on/off) of large electricity loads such as heating/cooling systems, water heaters, pool pumps, etc.

When trying to encourage their customers to change their usage patterns using dynamic electricity rates, the utilities have created a problem where the complexity and flux of the electricity rates is such that no consumer can react to the change – the UK will soon be offering 48 different electric and gas rates per day.  Few consumers can understand a single electricity rate works how can they be expected to make changes in their usage patterns when the rates change every 15 minutes?!

There’s a great opportunity for the Smart Home to come in and talk to the smart meter, find out the dynamic rates and load control information and then to optimize electricity usage resulting in measurable monetary savings and worry-free living.

Consumers can also make rational decisions about when to do high electricity consuming activities such as doing the wash when presented with the actual cost to do it now alongside a lower cost alternative at a specific time later in the day.  This type of decision model depends upon both meter data and pricing data both available from the Smart meter.

The point here is that the Smart Home can potentially talk to a Smart meter and acquire the utility pricing and current electricity usage that can feed into Smart Home rules to optimize electricity usage that will save the consumer money each month (provide a return on investment to the consumer) and take the stress out of electricity pricing models. The bonus is that the utility will also get what it desires which is to get the consumer to use power during off-peak periods and to react more quickly to changing electricity generation supply from renewable sources.

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