First Google announces the end of its free energy monitoring app, PowerMeter, and now Microsoft makes a similar announcement about Hohm (yeah…that’s how they spelled it), its own energy monitoring/energy saving recommendations site. Both services were free and meant to raise home-owner awareness about energy usage and efficiency. It’s interesting to see two titans of industry like Google and Microsoft fail at breaking in to the energy management market, but not really all that shocking. The concept of saving energy and cutting down on one’s carbon footprint is much more prevalent than it’s ever been, but it’s still a fledgling movement. It’s like recycling—people recognize the need for it but aren’t inclined to go out of their way to make it happen.
One of the main components missing from both PowerMeter and Hohm was control. They were tools that could tell you what was wrong…but at most could only suggest ways to fix it. Tautological suggestions like “buying an energy-efficient refrigerator will save you energy”. Compare that gem to the energy saving solution made possible by home automation:
“When we moved into our new home we purchased an energy efficient furnace to lesson our carbon footprint as well as reduce our monthly utility bill. This fancy new HVAC system fulfilled our expectations the first two months of its operation.
However, in month three (July), we noticed a $537 increase in our cooling bill. What we came to discover is that our son would open his bedroom window before he went to bed, and the energy efficient cooling system was pushing cold air directly out the window, for 10 hours each night…
Our new automation system ensures this will never happen again. When our son’s window (or any other window for that matter) is left open for more than 20 minutes, the HVAC system in that part of the house is turned off. When the window closes, the HVAC system resumes automatically.”
While it’s true that the first step in fixing a problem is noticing the problem, people want more than graphs and charts telling them what’s wrong. If energy management is going to take off, we need convenient and innovated solutions that don’t amount to a waste of time and…energy.