If you want to save on utility bills, a home energy management system could be a smart investment that can also satisfy your craving for high-tech toys. Home energy management devices deliver savings (and a greener home) by improving home energy efficiency. Not quite ready for prime time, these systems are expected to reach the market within 18 months. By tracking energy use and daily variances for the devices in your home, energy management systems can identify which devices are the most costly. Using this information you can reduce energy consumption and schedule heavy appliance use to take advantage of times when rates are lower.
Energy management systems let you plan appliance usage by linking not just to your devices, but to your utility company. Many systems can determine how and when rates will change over 24 hours, letting you predict the optimal times to use your high-energy devices for the lowest cost. Hertzog explains that you can access this information via your computer, television, or separate display device, with some systems allowing web access.
Smart Plugs Monitor Energy Use
Before they can track your refrigerator’s energy use, energy management systems need "smart plugs" linking the management system and the appliance; the plugs’ metering abilities collect power consumption data and transmit it to the system. Megan O’Brien of San Francisco’s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. proposes that smart plugs can even save more energy by turning devices off. Although currently smart plug prototypes have limited availability, a widely available consumer product is anticipated by mid-2011.
Once these energy management systems reach the mass market, multiple national providers will offer systems–including utility companies working independently or with partner firms. Cable, phone, home monitoring and security companies may also include energy management systems in their service offerings.
Prices for home energy management systems is expected to fall between $100 and several hundred dollars. Similar to other new technologies the price should drop over time, but it’s too early to tell if prices will drop at a similar rate. In theory companies could sell display devices for nominal fees below $100, and recoup costs via 1-2 year service contracts for ongoing energy monitoring and data collection.
But will home energy management systems help you save both energy and money?
According to Christine Hertzog, Managing Director of California’s Smart Grid Library, "Initial studies have shown that consumers, once they’re aware of their energy use, do make changes." Consumers may be more conscientious about turning off lights in empty rooms or using the washing machine and dishwasher at night, when the rates are lower.
Sam Lucero, practice director at New York-based market research firm ABI Research, suggests consumers can cut 5-15% from their bills via these systems. Consumers with a 75$ average monthly utility bill can save anywhere from $45 to $135 annually. The key to ongoing savings is persistence, he says. Returning to costly usage patterns after just a few months will negate the benefits.
As more utility companies adjust "time of use" rates to charge consumers more for energy use in peak periods, home energy management systems may become more widespread, believes senior scientist Alan Meier of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Library. Companies such as PG&E already use tiered pricing that increases a customer’s rate per kilowatt hour as power consumption increases.
Lucero believes in time these systems will become more proactive, with the ability to notify consumers of peak demand times and suggest delaying appliance use until a more cost-effective time. By helping you better understand energy use and its costs, the systems can help reduce your consumption–to the benefit of both the environment and your bank account.
Keep an eye out for these devices. Not only will they save you money on your energy bill, they’ll help make the environment more healthy.
This is a guest post by Jessica Bosari who is the site editor and content manager for billeater.com, a site that strives to help families and individuals cut costs. You can find out more energy saving tips by visiting www.billeater.com.