Horowitz’s firm makes energy efficiency a part of every design, but she adds that the usual early adopters present in all technology markets are driving sales now.
“It’s very user-driven if you’re very conscious," says Horowitz. "It’s kind of like having all the facts on food – you can make a decision when you know.”
Energy efficiency could be a formidable sector. With $127 billion spent by US households on energy annually, even the low-end. 10 percent energy savings targets of today’s energy efficiency technologies is an overnight $13-billion market.
Wealth Of Products
While dozens of products are available now, their capabilities vary. Current home energy monitors can be as simple as an energy meter compiling your home’s electricity usage over a given day, or as sophisticated as a one-box, home automation system with energy use analysis.
Utah-based startup Control4 is bringing its EMS100 “home area network” automation system to CES—a wireless, in-home display connected to wireless thermostat and whatever else you have plugged in. It allows you to check your energy usage and turn devices on and off as needed.
“Control and monitoring are separate issues that need to be brought together,” says Control4 CEO Will West. “[The EMS100] gives you full, rich info about what going on in the home. It’s a rich display device and management system in a box.”
With an expected wholesale price of under $200, the EMS100 also provides additional user-driven content, like weather reports and photo viewing, and works as a universal remote control for the electronics in your house. Some integrated systems like the EMS100 can run up to $600, says ZeroEnergy Design’s Horowitz.
At the simpler end of the tech scale, home energy monitors combine a plain display and wireless transmitter with a “smart meter” that analyzes your overall consumption.
Consumer appliance and toolmaker Black & Decker is selling its EM100B Power Monitor for $100.
Even with these simple devices, the effect on the homeowner’s energy use awareness can be dramatic.
“You turn on all the TVs in your house and say ‘wow’” when you see the energy use spike, says Horowitz.
Consumers are paying more attention to energy usage. Research by the Consumer Electronics Association—which runs CES each year—shows 75 percent of American households expressed concern over rising home energy costs.
About half expect increases over the next year, while three-quarters increases in the next five years. Some 86 percent say they’re taking action to bring down costs.
The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency pegs the average electricity bill for a US home at $96 per month. Black & Decker says its system will deliver savings of up to 20 percent. At that rate, the payback period is about a year.
More expensive systems, like Control4’s, have longer paybacks, but manufacturers of these higher-end products argue that they combine several uses and time savings with reduced energy costs. This multi-tasking approach, they point out, gets consumers to adopt now-foreign energy monitoring behavior while accomplishing others tasks, like turning off their TV.