Yes, there is a developing mid-market for home energy management. It’s a question I was asked several times at last week’s CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis. There are several mid-market systems becoming available that could be sold to mass affluent homeowners with incomes of $100,000-plus, making real energy management available to that huge audience who are interested in energy efficiency.
Home control company HAI has had energy management solutions for utility-based smart grid use—and now touts a suite of devices using the wireless ZigBee Home Automation protocol. The suite can provide energy management in the home independent of utility-based smart grid programs.
A small tabletop or wall-mounted ZigBee Interface Module (ZIM $243) for the company’s Omni and Lumina controllers or a ZigBee MicroControl touchpanel ($252) for a standalone systems is required. You can add OmniStat2 RC-200ZB thermostats ($432) or RC-1000ZB t-stats for single-stage conventional and heat pump systems ($378), 30- and 5-amp control modules ($243 and $234), and 300-watt plug-in lamp modules ($162 each) to the system. The ZIM can accommodate up to 64 devices and do current sensing. More features and wireless protocols may be added later. “We’ve designed the entire product suite around a modular radio concept so that in the future we have the flexibility to add support for whatever radio technology the market demands,” says HAI’s Thomas Pickral Jr.
ZigBee’s RF wireless mesh connectivity rival Z-Wave is widely regarded as a do-it-yourself hookup solution— but not so fast. Home automation/control company Control4 is adding Z-Wave network integration, thanks to a new Control4 driver from Extra Vegetables.
The driver connects Control4 systems to the Vera2 home controller from Mi Casa Verde. Vera, a Z-Wave-enabled control system that has never quite made it to the custom channel.
This could open up a suite of Z-Wave products to custom installation, from Leviton lighting and control to Yale motorized locks to Hunter Douglas and Somfy shades (see below) to FortrezZ water sensors and more. Think of it as custom installing Sonos audio systems for customers who just don’t want to do it themselves.
Yes, there is motorized window shading for the mid-market, using Z-Wave and Somfy’s RTS technology.
TaHomA (for Total Home Automation), allows homeowners to control and automate Z-Wave enabled window coverings, lighting, and thermostats in what Somfy calls an “energy triangle.”
The system optimizes the interaction of natural and artificial lighting, heating and cooling according to personal preferences. For example, window treatments like motorized shades can descend at certain times to block the sun and naturally cool a space—or ascend to warm a space with sunlight and preclude the need for artificial lighting.
Somfy says the system will be accessible from a computer, iPad or iPhone, within or outside the home, and the web-based interface guides consumers with intuitive graphics and step-by-step prompts as they personalize their home energy functions.
I’m told the system is rolling out to dealers now.
Lutron Cellular Shade
This is the first time Lutron has offered cellular shades, which are more energy-efficient by trapping air between a two layers in a honeycomb pattern, and can as much as double the R-value (insulating value) of a triple-pane window. Lutron says the shades specifically address the mid-market.
BlueBolt, a cloud-based remote monitoring system used primarily for audio/video systems and remote reboots, is expanding to include energy monitoring and control of specific devices throughout the home.
The product allows electronics contractors to sell energy management through audio/video—and cut power to devices to save on wasteful standby power when those components aren’t being used.
In the first quarter of 2012, BlueBolt will introduce whole-house systems via a MD2-ZB two-outlet plug-in module with two discretely sensing and controllable outlets ($100 each) and the BB-ZigBee bridge that serves as gateway for BlueBolt control over ZigBee mesh network and supports up to 40 MD2-ZB plug-in devices throughout the home.
BlueBolt parent Panamax Furman says ROI on a whole-home system using eight plug-in modules could be about three years, by cutting standby power on various devices throughout the house eight hours a day and resulting in an annual estimated savings of $342. (Though you’d also be cutting power to several set-top boxes.) But the point is that mid-market ROI is a possibility.
In fact, a mid-market for home energy management now appears to be a strong possibility.