With the Smartphone market share now reaching 40% in the U.S., this article explores what’s possible to improve mobile Smart Energy Applications for the home. This article is a sequel to How to Win in Smart Energy: Study Maslow’s Hierarchy. Imagine being on vacation with your family wondering if you changed the A/C thermostat setting, water sprinkler schedule and water heater temperatures. If you had the best Smart Energy application on the planet, you would be able to monitor and control all those features and more.
The following is my vision for the Top 10 Features that Smart Energy Applications Must Have:
Smartphone/Tablet-based application for Optimizing Home Energy. Now that 40% of mobile phone users access anytime/anywhere applications with Smartphones (source: Nielsen), the best Smart Energy App will need to have both iPhone-based or Android-based applications for real-time convenience. With Tablets now taking market share from laptops, Tablet Apps are also essential.
Appliance/Consumer Electronics(CE) management: According to the Dept. of Energy, 26% of household energy comes from this category. So with simple wireless adapter plugs (WIFI- or Zigbee-based) connected to each appliance or CE device, there are already products sold that could be integrated into a one-stop shopping Smart Energy application for eliminating vampire current and turning off unused devices.
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) management– 42% of Household Energy is HVAC-based so the best Smart Energy App would allow remote control of one’s thermostat(s) to measure and manage temperature settings in the home. As one reader advised, it should also include the ability to utilize/pump outside air into the home when the cooling/heating conditions are better than generating it.
Lighting/security control – How many times have you left the home wondering if you turned off the lights inside and outside of the house? Or how many times have you wanted to turn on the outside lights for security reasons? With 11% of the average home energy costs being lighting-related, the Smart Energy App would give consumers the ability to manage lighting in any room inside the home or any location outside of it.
Water Heater Management: 12% of home energy costs are driven by water heaters alone. Many consumers don’t realize that there are convenient vacation settings for water heaters that dramatically reduce the operational costs when families are away for extended periods of time. The Smart Energy App would help automate the process for minimizing energy wasted from unused water heaters.
Renewable Energy Conversion – Whether home users begin using solar panels, small wind turbines or other renewable energy sources, the Smart Energy App would give consumers the ability to know when to be on the grid or off the grid.
Water Management: Unlike Texas which has experienced one of the hottest dry spells in the last 100 years, there are states that have regular rainfall. Home sprinkler or irrigation systems would be automatically monitored to be activated or de-activated as the weather permits. They could also eventually set maximum times for taking showers, dishwasher use or other water-intensive activities.
Gray/Rain Water Conversion– With 50-80% of home water resulting in gray water (water from sinks, washers, dishwashers, showers, etc.), consumers can use it for watering plants, irrigating gardens etc. with the right measurements in place to ensure timely and smart use while minimizing clean water demand.
Automated Windows/Shutters/Blinds – Although this is not popular today, many homes in the Southwest and California have installed movable external shades to minimize the heat being absorbed in the home. As much as 40% of unwanted heat comes through windows. As one reader recommends, using window treatments such as remote-controlled blinds for windows, shutters, etc. could dramatically reduce the unwanted heat and be manageable via the Smart Energy App, if needed.
Variable Grid Price Management: As more metro areas move to time-of-day pricing models, the Smart Energy App would allow consumers to voluntarily select which days they would want to curtail appliance-specific, HVAC-specific, pool-specific or other electricity usage to minimize costs during peak pricing hours and help their city avoid blackouts.
While no list of features can be exhaustive, these have made the Top 10 list based on the type of impact each can have to save energy, reuse energy/resources and be implemented with a reasonable ROI. Keep in mind that it is not worth converting to any of these features unless the service providers and product suppliers provide a quantifiable ROI for consumers.
Are there additional features that you would include? Your comments are welcome.
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© 2011 by Ed Valdez