Smart Home Dividend: Utility Finds Connected Homes Conserve More Energy

Smart meters and connected home energy devices are fun and flashy, but can they actually help homeowners save energy and money? One utility company says they do.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Under option three, the ratepayer receives the CEIVA Energy Homeview device as well as a ZigBee-enabled thermostat made by Carrier. When paired with CEIVA Energy's mobile app, this setup allows a ratepayer to respond to a peak-energy event even if he or she is not home, by changing the thermostat's set temperature via the app. But beyond that, this also enables National Grid to adjust the home's thermostat directly during peak-demand events. The homeowner is alerted to this and is able to override it.

Option four includes all of the aforementioned hardware and services, along with one ZigBee-enabled 110-volt wall outlet two-plug adapter, known as a SafePlug. Using the CEIVA app, ratepayers can remotely view the energy consumption of the devices or appliances plugged into the SafePlug, and turn them off in order to reduce energy consumption during periods of high rates. Lastly, this option allows the homeowner to have SafePlug load-control devices wired into appliances, such as an electric water heater or pool pumps, so that he or she can control those appliances remotely as well.

National Grid used a third party to install and configure any of these devices, including the CEIVA products, in ratepayers' homes.

Of the 11,000 Worcester ratepayers who are part of the demand-response pilot, only around 1,000 opted to have the CEIVA Energy Entryway system installed in their homes, says Wannie Park, CEIVA Energy's VP of strategic partnerships. Those who installed the system by selecting option two, three or four saved 20 percent more energy during peak energy demand periods, from the program's January launch until mid-August, than those who selected option one. National Grid has not released specifics regarding how much energy ratepayers saved per option.

"This is a really well-designed program," Park says, "and the fact that numbers are coming out well is important" to the growth of the smart-home industry.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said that ratepayers who used the Entryway demand response management hardware saved 20 percent more energy that those who did not. In fact, they saved 20 percent more energy than other ratepayers only during periods of peak energy demand. Also, the Entryway was earlier referred to as a home energy management system, but it is more accurately called a demand response management system in this edited version of the article. My apologies for the errors. -- Mary Catherine O'Connor

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