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Energy COOL: Hubbing the Home

May 15th, 2009 · No Comments

Since diving into the deep end when it comes to energy issues, almost every day sees new fascinating concepts, approaches, and technologies. Fascinating … exciting … even hope inspiring at times. And, as well, as the passion builds, so many of these are truly Energy COOL.

In true EcoGeek fashion, meandering among the booths at trade shows and conferences often provide moments of excitement and thoughts as to possibilities looking out into the future. Yesterday, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute held 12th Annual Congressional Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum, combination of conference and ‘trade show’ (“EXPO”) with some 20 or so booths from organizations and coalitions, businesses, and government agencies. As with getting some good VIBEs from talking with the NREL staff, there were several “Energy COOL” moments in the EXPO that made the trip to the EESI session worth the time.

After the fold, a discussion of one of these: Energy Hub.

Energy Hub looks to take feedback systems and power management options to a new level for the ‘average’ household. This is far from the first household monitor or controller (even think thermometer) that I’ve seen or heard from, but it is perhaps the most attractive and flexible that I’ve encountered.

The Energy Hub concept is interesting, on multiple levels, because it looks to provide a path to help make elements of the Smart(er) Grid a reality that much sooner. From the utility side, it provides a plausible path for demand-side management into homes (where there are agreements) and fostering much richer (and real-time) information sharing between the utility and the end-users. Perhaps somewhat terrifyingly like retail card holders, the Energy Hub will enable the utilities to have quite detailed information on energy use patterns within homes and could enable more effective prioritization and deployment of energy-efficiency programs.

For the consumer, the Energy Hub is about both information and control. The Energy Hub will replace the thermostat, have a wireless reading even of basic ‘smart meters’ (e.g, those meters that make it possible for the utility to drive by to collect usage data rather than send the meter reader to the side of your house), and there are plugs attachments for placing between any electrical item and the electrical system. This will enable real-time feedback on energy usage by the entire household or perhaps by lighting or by cook top or … The system is flexible enough to enable the ‘average’ user to set it up however they’d like. “Knowledge is power” is the refrain. When it comes to feedback systems, an estimate of ten percent savings across a broad population via deployment of the Energy Hub might well be on the conservative side of the equation.

The Energy Hub is not just about ‘feedback’ but also intelligent control. Right now, easily available are thermostats that enable controls timed for daytime, evening, weekends with a relatively easy path toward longer term ‘vacation’ settings. The Energy Hub raises this potential to the full-house system, as a simply plug interface enables not just collecting information but controlling the power systems. Going to sleep, a few taps and you could turn off any lamps left on. With a web interface, you could program the lighting to turn on as you drive up to the house. Worried that the stove was left on, a quick check of the web could calm you or confirm your fears … and allow you to shut it off.

On Energy Hub: Inhabit: “EnergyHub’s array of software and hardware looks to bring a sense of control to consumer’s homes”.

Quite simply, the Energy Hub looks to offer the elegance and performance for a household system that Toyota seems to have done to create the “Prius Effect”.

Don’t know about you, but can’t wait to have one in my home.

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Tags: electricity · Energy · energy cool · energy efficiency · energy smart · environmental