home energy management systems

Imagine when home energy management systems are fully automated and optimized – taking care of everything from adjusting the electrical load of the house amid fluctuating temperatures and peak demand prices, to preventing a pipe from bursting.

Fully optimized and automated homes are starting to become a reality. Every week, companies in the energy and Internet of Things space announce new connected products and solutions to inch us closer to a futuristic vision of managed homes.

The terms “smart home” and “home energy management” (HEM) have begun to lose their meaning as more products enter the market. The ability to control lights through a phone doesn’t make a home “smart,” just simply “connected”. Furthermore, analyzing last month’s bill to make energy efficient changes isn’t home energy management, it’s simply home energy awareness. There are different levels of home automation that are worth discussing.

Level 0: Historical Data Visualization

At Level 0, a homeowner is presented with historical energy data, typically in the form of home energy reports (HER) or online historical visualization tools. Right now this can be done by logging into your account at your utility provider. While this information can raise homeowner’s awareness of their past energy use, it doesn’t provide many opportunities for learning how to save power and lower the bills.

Level 1: Real-Time Energy Monitoring

At Level 1, homeowners acquire real-time energy consumption of their entire home. Products can receive this real-time data stream from different devices, such as AMI meters with Zigbee and a Zigbee-enabled gateway or current transformer (CT) clamps (the two major sources). Getting an instant look at their live energy use allows them to see exactly how much energy they are using and subsequently turn devices on or off. This is where home energy management moves from providing passive energy data to informing consumers on their energy use as it happens.

This previously unused data stream is the foundation of any home energy management solution. Real-time energy monitoring can empower homeowners to make energy efficient decisions by creating a live view of electricity consumption and educating them on where energy waste is occurring.

Many home energy management solutions stop here, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Once consumers can see their energy consumption, they naturally want the ability to better control it. They can then take their home energy management to the next level through connected devices.

Level 2: Real-Time + Connected Devices

Level 2 offers true home energy management – bridging the gap between being able to see real-time energy consumption and control the devices using it. Home owners also gain the ability to manage their home and energy from anywhere, remotely. This is made possible through an array of connected devices in the home using protocols such as Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Wi-Fi.

With device control, users can easily command everything from connected thermostats, lights, door locks, and large appliances. Level 2 empowers consumers to not only become informed on what devices and appliances are consuming energy, but begin to manage their use and even set rules for devices so they perform their duties on specific schedules.

While most “smart home” solutions today fall just behind Level 2 , and lack integrated energy information, we believe homes don’t become truly “smart” until they reach Level 3.

Level 3: Insight-Assisted Change

At Level 3, the smart home’s technology automatically learns patterns within a home to find and suggest ways to control devices and ultimately save energy. Combing the real-time data feed with metadata from connected devices provides a home energy management system with the ability to understand exactly how appliances in the home are operating. This offers deeper insight.

One form of insight-assisted-change is appliance health monitoring. This is where the platform can monitor the performance characteristics of appliances (learned from real-time energy stream + connected devices). This can then be used to alert consumers when certain thresholds are breached. For example, being alerted if an HVAC system is using little to no energy when the connected thermostat is calling for AC. Or that the refrigerator door wasn’t closed all the way, causing the compressor to continue to run.

Level 4: Autonomous Home Optimization

Level 4 is where an autonomous home energy management platform uses real-time energy data, connected devices, and knowledge of performance heuristics from the home and appliances, to coordinates a personalized and automatic optimization engine for the home. Balancing comfort and energy efficiency, learning patterns and understanding specific situations and occupancy – the home will take everything into consideration without the consumer having to lift a finger. The temperature will be adjusted automatically. Lights will turn on and off or dim depending on context. Coffee will be ready when waking up in the morning, and high-consuming appliances will only operate at off-peak times.

We are not here yet, but we’re not far away. The beginning stages of level 3 solutions, like Powerley, are already available in the market. As Level 4 platforms make their way into a consumer’s home, autonomous home energy management systems stand to revolutionize the grid, with optimized features that offer the perfect balance of comfort and efficiency. This will open the door to new perks that go above and beyond energy savings, allowing for previously unseen levels of automated devices and appliances. It will create opportunities to better manage demand and integrate distributed energy resources when the grid needs it most. Level 4 could be the biggest leap forward in energy since the first power lines were installed.

The utility industry is on the cusp of a new era in energy that is being driven by the power and potential of an automated world. It is more than science fiction – autonomous energy management is coming, and it will be much more efficient, personalized, and intuitive than anything we have ever seen before in the energy management space. These four levels lay out a framework to help offer guidance as companies and utilities navigate the complexities and challenges these solutions will inevitably bring on the path toward full autonomy.