Last Updated Jun 9, 2011 7:26 PM EDT
It sounds more intrusive than it is. Customers can reprogram or override EcoFactor's system at any time. Still, successfully navigating the consumer psyche is a tricky business and some folks might find it difficult giving up "control," even symbolically.
How it works
Modern thermostats typically have an "energy saver" mode, which sounds great, but isn't effective because it can't take into account factors like the size of the home, the weather or even the customer's personal habits. EcoFactor has developed software that constantly monitors all of that stuff and then adjusts the thermostat as needed.
The nifty part of EcoFactor's business model is that the company has found a way to avoid using a smart meter or any other expensive hardware. It removes one potential stumbling block in the bid to win over consumers.
The company uses a home's broadband service to connect with a communicating thermostat. The thermostat acts as a sensor that roots out each home's unique characteristics. That data, along with a customer's preferences and weather patterns, are all used to determine how to most efficiently heat or cool the home. In all, EcoFactor's energy management engine collects, stores and processes 24,000 points of data from the home, local weather stations and even regional building codes every day.
Once a customer signs up and a baseline of use is determined, EcoFactor can automatically adjust the thermostat. These adjustments are made often and are usually done on such a small scale that the customer doesn't even notice.
No more blackouts
The latest data comes from an ongoing pilot program with Texas power provider Oncor and other unnamed utilities. Much of the focus is on the consumer end, but the benefits to utilities are immense. And that's important since utilities, which have an enormous, captive audience, can push the product for EcoFactor.
The utilities involved in the study experienced up to a 36 percent increase in demand response yield per home. Demand response, which helps utilities balance a customer's need for electricity with the power company's output, has become an increasing important in maintaining a healthy -- no blackouts! -- electrical grid.
Photo from EcoFactor