What makes Foundation a “next-generation” solution?
The input we received helped Energate’s product management and engineering teams understand the feature set utilities needed in a comprehensive home energy management (HEM) system. Many of these features already existed in the solutions currently available, including programmable communicating thermostats (PCTs) and in-home displays (IHDs). There were other features, however, that were either missing or not implemented in an optimal fashion. Foundation integrates both the existing and several new features into an extensible platform, and “future-proof” extensibility is the main capability utilities want in a next-generation HEM system.
How is Foundation different from the high-end smart thermostats from other vendors?
Foundation combines not only multiple features, but also, in effect, multiple devices. It is both a smart thermostat and an in-home display integrated into a single device. It is also extensible with the ability to control other loads, receive over-the-air (OTA) upgrades and add support for another network, such as Wi-Fi, with a USNAP (Universal Smart Network Access Port) module.
Is Foundation really as easy to operate as Energate claims?
Yes. For those users who want to “set and forget” their preferences, Foundation offers a simple way to select the desired trade-off between maximum comfort and maximum savings. For those who want to more sophisticated capabilities, such as creating different settings for different times of the week or year, or controlling other loads, Foundation offers an intuitive menu and conversational wizards that guide users step-by-step through the set up process.
What type of consumer does Energate anticipate will want to use the dockable Companion product, and why?
Energate has prepared a set of use cases for Companion and other optional capabilities, such as the customer Web portal and apps for smartphones and tablets, and we provide these use cases to our utility partners to help guide their marketing efforts. The typical use case for Companion involves a consumer who could be considered an “enthusiast” for home energy management. These users want the ability to go well beyond “set and forget” and experiment with different options and settings, potentially for additional loads. The larger color touch-screen display offered by Companion makes it easier to experiment with and configure these advanced settings.
Why build a separate Companion product when the same features could be implemented in a smartphone or tablet?
Simply put: to give consumers more choices, and thereby, maximize both customer engagement and the reduction in peak demand. One size does not fit all in home energy management. Some want the utility to handle everything (such as installing a direct load control switch on the air conditioner). Some want just a smart thermostat. Some want a total home energy management solution. Some want the ability to monitor and manage energy utilization while away from home (or a second or vacation home). Having a broad product line that accommodates the full range of customer segments and needs is a key reason utilities have chosen Energate as their residential demand response (and/or direct load control) partner.
Will Foundation be able to go beyond home energy management into home automation applications?
Yes, but we are not hearing this need yet from our utility and other partners. Home energy management is considered to be a completely separate and unrelated application from other home automation needs, such as those involving security and entertainment. One area where there may be an intersection is lighting control. But people use lighting control more for mood (different settings for different situations) and/or security (turning lights on and off while away), and would likely not tolerate lights being dimmed or turned off during a demand response event!
Can you give us an everyday example of how your system works and how an average consumer would use it in his/her lifestyle?
Energate sells exclusively to utilities that provide the initial devices directly to their consumers. Each utility will have its own particular reason to implement demand-side management programs so the consumer experience will vary based on what the utility is trying to accomplish—energy efficiency, avoiding new generation, improving customer satisfaction, or all three.
However, our new home energy gateway, Foundation, provides a common platform that allows a consistent user experience even with different utility programs. You can toggle with the touch of a button between energy information about your home and/or large loads such as your HVAC in the energy manager mode and an advanced smart thermostat that provides state-of-the-art smart thermostat capabilities. Of course the consumer has the ability to schedule heating and cooling profiles that can be different each day of the week using the scheduling wizard, or use the customer portal to set the schedule. The tracking mode in the energy manager lets you track how well you are doing now compared to the last 30 days.
If the consumer’s utility has time of use, or critical peak pricing programs, Foundation gives an easy set-and-forget option where the consumer can select max savings (participate in all events), max comfort (ignore all events but pay more), or three intermediate steps that change how aggressive loads should respond to pricing or events.
Is there a rule of thumb payback rate and time frame for a typical residential system installation?
As a utility program, the consumer will have an immediate payback as the utility either pays for Foundation and installation or provides a rebate that will cover the costs. Some utilities may allow their customers to add additional devices to the basic installation expanding the ability for the homeowner to maximize their ability to manage and control their energy. If the utility supports it, our ZIP Connect (our internet gateway) will provide access to all the Energate enabled devices in a home using MyEnergate customer portal and MyEnergate mobile application. Also, if a utility supports it, consumers can add load switches (with measurement if desired) on appliances such as hot water tanks (5-12% savings according to DOE) and pool pumps which can have relatively short paybacks depending on usage. If a customer replaces a regular standard thermostat with Foundation, they can expect energy use reduction greater than 15% if they use the energy management capabilities.
Is your system capable of handling small commercial applications?
The Energate solution is very capable of handling small commercial applications. The energy management features work with 120/240 VAC single phase meters and our direct wired load switches are 120/240 at 30 amps or 24VAC control relay output. We also have a plug-in load switch that can be used in a standard 120 VAC outlet. In our own office space we use our own products to manage our HVAC system.
Have you given any thought on how to integrate alternative energy systems (solar or wind) with your energy management system?
To the extent that utilities have programs that support on-premises generation, our current wired load switch provides the ability to control loads, measure power, or both. By installing our wired load switch appropriately in a 120/240 volt single phase circuit, alternative energy resources, or any on-site resource, can be monitored and controlled. The Energate home energy solution can be configured to allow generation fluctuations to be tracked and potentially balanced with matching DR either at the same site where it may be of financial benefit to the owner due to the tariff scheme (such as net metering), or balanced across the system by the utility where that is more desirable (such as with a feed-in-tariff).
Energate (www.energateinc.com) is a leading provider of demand response and home energy management solutions including software, wireless communications, gateways, smart thermostats, switches and consumer energy displays. The Consumer Connected Demand Response (CCDR™) solution allows utilities to immediately address residential energy demand and empowers consumers to more effectively manage their energy use. Energate products seamlessly connect to the Smart Grid to deal with supply and demand challenges, the increased use of renewables and dynamic rate structures. Founded in 2004, Energate is headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario with offices in California, Illinois, Texas and Toronto.