Smart meters are a nearly complete solution for home energy management, offering detailed information on power use and potential savings. But until everyone has a smart meter—a goal that will take many years to accomplish—energy-savvy consumers are often forced to rely on third-party products like the TED 5000. Now they have a new option: EcoFactor, a broadband gateway that uses information from a two-way thermostat to keep heating and cooling systems at optimal levels.
The EcoFactor system works with a wireless thermostat rigged up to a DSL or cable box to send EcoFactor temperature information. The EcoFactor system then tweaks the temperature based on set parameters, past thermostat usage, and local weather patterns. For example, instead of leaving an air-conditioner on all day long, EcoFactor might determine that it makes the most sense to turn it on an hour before residents get home. In total, the company claims that these measures can cut heating and cooling costs by 20% to 30%. If EcoFactor's claim proves to be true, that's a big deal—residential heating and air-conditioning systems are responsible for 7.8% of energy use in the U.S.
Don't get too excited just yet. As with smart meters, consumers have to wait for their utilities to sign on before using EcoFactor—at least initially. First up: a deal with Texas-based Oncor to use its demand-response technology to eliminate the need for 3 MW of peak power, or the equivalent of 2,000 average air-conditioning units. EcoFactor hasn't revealed how much (or even if) customers will be charged for its services.
Eventually, EcoFactor might be integrated into service packages provided by companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. That means your next Internet and cable TV deal might also come with a killer home energy management system.