Home energy management is in an interesting place right now. There are plenty of examples of success, failure and ongoing confusion amongst these consumer products. Adding to that, product analysis and opinion is a dime a dozen, with some pocket change doled out here with a list and value of the them. Right there is what makes the space so interesting – the products exists and there is value – so why the hell don’t we all have an energy gizmo in our house right this moment?.
Is it because of the variety we are paralyzed on getting the latest and greatest EnergySaver9000 in our homes? Is it the cost?
Our friend, the toaster
Take the humble toaster. This little guy is an appliance that nearly all of us have. We’re familiar with what it does and why we have it. So what does this have to do with energy appliances?
First of all, we know what a toaster is supposed to do. Sure, there’s variation in energy product features, but there is variation within the epic struggle of bread product v types of metal heating box – and we still get our bagels more or less amicably sorted out in the morning. Energy management is case-by-case in the details, but there are still generalities in the home – rasin bagels are nasty, but they are still sold in the bakery and still toast up just as well.
Second, we can all afford at least one toaster out there. Some toasters cost a few bucks (Hamilton Beach death-traps, ahoy!) to the few hundred (Dualit Megaslice SuperToast Extraordinaire). Granted, energy management is a little more pricey, but TED will get you in the club at about a hundred bucks while Ecobee will be glad to sell you a new thermostat for upwards of five hundred dollars.
So, is there a future?
Yeah, that’s kind of a crap question. Of course there is. While energy still costs money, we’ll have a desire to manage it. The real question will be “is there a need for fancy energy management dashboards or devices in the home?”
A few major players have said no to the appliance such as Cisco while other majors said no while still software-only, like Microsoft and Google. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world stopped playing just yet. There are some pretty obvious players in the ‘yes’ camp making visible progress such as Tendril and TED – even the giant GE.
If there is a future, where are we going?
Home energy management is not dead yet, much less home energy management appliances. Eric Weshoff is right in saying that these devices need to present an obvious value to the consumer – of which TED has slowly but surely made exemplary progress with a niche consumer. Furthermore, increased partnerships with utilities will help ensure this value as well as volume of delivery of devices – an approach which Tendril seeks to see success in.
Finally, I think the successful delivery of energy management appliances to the home will include components of social and personal gain outside of simple dollars. Sharing and social involvement with these systems may help bring the consumer into the “neighborhood of the grid“, realizing their actions contribute to a greater communal energy demand and they actually can play their part. Creating a personal challenge of energy management is important as well and can be done through interesting design and use of the product – also known as the wonderfully irritating, cumbersome word Gamification. Yes, there is certainly still a future for home energy products.