The Kill A Watt is a green-geek favorite, but it’s also one of the few gadgets over the years to make it off the stumbling block in home energy management. Despite general support for greener living, the consumer market for energy management tools hasn’t taken off. High costs and difficulties in accessing utility data have been two of the gating factors, and perhaps a lack of cool gadgets has contributed as well. However, several things suggest that the environment (pun intended) may be about to change.
The success of smartphones and the app paradigm means it’s easy to give consumers a taste of home energy management without requiring a big financial commitment. A company called Qreative Medias just launched a Home Energy Performance app for the iPhone and iPad that’s designed to help you rate your home’s energy efficiency and decide where to make improvements. It calculates a score for your home based on the Energy Performance Certificate program out of the UK. Or for those of us Stateside, provides a rating between A and G. The Qreative app is far from the only app available too. Visible Energy and Control4 have introduced their own offerings for energy-conscious consumers that include actual monitoring of your energy usage.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has thrown its weight behind a web-based energy management tool called Hohm. It existed only as software when Microsoft first launched Hohm, but last month the company teamed up with Blue Line Innovations to pair the software with (relatively) low-cost hardware. Now you can buy a Hohm-compatible PowerCost Monitor and Wi-Fi kit for $249. And, Microsoft has opened up the software to other third-party developers as well, with the expectation that other Hohm-compatible gadgets will be available soon.
Google is another big name is this emerging market. The search-engine giant introduced its free PowerMeter software in 2009 for use with smart meters deployed by your utility company. Of course, if your power company didn’t use smart meters, the Google solution was a non-starter, at least until Google paired it with the TED 5000 gadget from Energy Inc. Now, like with the Microsoft offering, you can buy cheap’ish energy management hardware ($200-$300 for the TED 5000), and access your usage data online.
Between smartphone and iPad apps, and big players like Microsoft and Google getting into the game with user-friendly solutions, the energy management market may finally be ready for mainstream America. Or at least for the techie population.