purchase of EnergyHub confirms growing trend for PCT optimization software

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6 June 2013, Gas, Electricity

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A study by Florida Power & Light Company (FP&L) once found that 71% of PCT users either did not program their thermostats at all, or created settings that were so slight their effect was negligible. The chief reason for FP&L's findings is that programming a PCT is comparable to programming an old VCR - it is a process that tends to require the user remembering a sequence of esoteric key presses.

This and the fact that many PCTs with an energy saving mode work on a one-size-fits-all premise has meant that many utilities have become skeptical about the use of smart thermostats in energy efficiency programs, due to the difficulty of ensuring that homeowners use them properly and realize their benefits.

However, utility attitudes are beginning to change thanks to the development of software from companies like EcoFactor and EnergyHub, which is aimed at optimizing off-the-shelf thermostats and increasing customer engagement to better realize the benefits of these devices.

The former has developed a solution that constantly monitors both the ambient and the outside temperature to create an individual dynamic thermal signature for each home. The system then estimates the optimal energy required to heat or cool the property, automatically implementing the required adjustments.

Similarly, EnergyHub has developed the Mercury platform, which uses advanced analytics, weather metrics, HVAC runtime, and thermostat setpoint data as well as consumer behavior patterns to arrive at a customized plan for maximizing home energy efficiency. A number of utilities now utilize the Mercury platform to manage peak residential heating and cooling loads by adjusting customers' thermostats to use less energy during times of high demand; these include Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, Mid-South Synergy, Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative and Austin Energy.

Opower, a developer of analytical software that uses advanced statistical algorithms and behavioral science to reveal patterns in household energy usage, has also gotten in on the act. The company has integrated its software into Honeywell's UtilityPRO DR thermostats, which are being provided to customers of Burlington Hydro, Hydro Ottawa, and PowerStream in Ontario, Canada.

The integration of optimization software into PCTs is clearly a trend that is gathering pace and is more than likely one of the main reasons EnergyHub was acquired by earlier this month. The company, which provides the software behind Vivint's hugely successful smart home/security offering, is in fact no stranger to the home energy management space, having offered the Empower range of products for some time. However, we believe that it has seen the potential to expand its offering beyond the home security realm and begin to work more closely with utilities looking to implement a simple residential demand response program. EnergyHub, and its ties to many utilities and to leading thermostat manufacturer Radio Thermostat Company of America, would seem to fit the bill perfectly.

Datamonitor recently published a new brief, titled "Home Energy Management Systems," focusing on the use of PCTs in energy management programs. It also compares the effectiveness of PCTs in saving energy against another popular type of home energy management system, in-home displays. The brief assesses prominent manufacturers of both devices, a selection of leading solutions, and highlights customer feedback from the use of these products. / / @DatamonitorEN

Source: MarketLine

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