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At Home With HEMS

Posted on | September 2, 2015 | No Comments

(Originally posted on January 10, 2012; this topic has evolved since and will be updated in subsequent blog posts)

Working in the energy efficiency industry means – much as it does in other industries – that I deal with a lot of acronyms on a daily basis.  One of my favorite subjects, in fact, is an acronym that is just starting to gain traction in the EE “lexicon”: HEMS, which stands for Home Energy Management (and/or Monitoring) Systems.  If you saw my blog post on the 2011 DOE Solar Decathlon, you know I am pretty enthusiastic about high-performance, energy efficient homes.  Well here’s the thing… I also happen to think that the smart, sustainable homes of tomorrow will probably have some sort of HEMS in them.

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(Photo: a HEMS app on an iPad from the Solar Decathlon)

HEMS are defined as any hardware and/or software system that monitor and provide feedback about, and often the ability to control and manage, a home’s energy usage.  Monitoring devices for the home, such as the Kill-a-Watt, have been around for more than a decade, but those first technologies on the market can be considered analog, at best. The state of the art has advanced significantly in the past several years, and even more so since the large scale deployment of smart meters.  Basic HEMS like the TED (The Energy Detective) can give you an overall picture of energy usage; mid-priced HEMS often have smart thermostats (although probably none as buzz-worthy as the Nest Learning Thermostat); and more mature HEMS have been developed, which can give customers detailed information about every energy-using device in their home, offer the chance to change the thermostat or turn lights off when you’re away, and even allow consumers to manage the charging of their electric vehicles at a home charging station.

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(Photo: these dots light up when you are using too much energy… they are a very basic HEMS)

The market for HEMS has gotten so robust, in fact, that at one point in 2011 there was thought to be in excess of 300 manufacturers and vendors with unique HEMS products, and GTM Research forecasted that the market for HEMS (which are also referred to as Home Area Networks, or HAN) would grow over 90% to $750 million by 2015.  As if to emphasize that point, 2011 was a big year for many major HEMS companies.  NV Energy picked home-control pioneer Control4 for its big customer dashboard deployment; start-up EnergyHub launched its software-as-a-service platform; and Tendril announced it would be in millions of homes soon… and then promptly opened up shop in Australia.

Propelled by this momentum and my own fascination with innovative ways to make homes more energy efficient, in late Spring 2011, I helped launch an employee pilot using several HEMS in order to see first-hand how these devices work and to simulate the customer experience, amongst other things.  The market for HEMS is truly an early emerging technology market and as such, it is still very dynamic; case in point, one coworker who had access to Google PowerMeter through their TED device lost it when Google announced it was killing the PowerMeter in September 2011.  But, we’ve made do and we’re still learning all sorts of things from these devices, and in turn, we’re helping our clients learn about them as well.

Long story short, HEMS are here to stay.  But don’t take my word for it!  Soon you’ll be able to walk into a Lowe’s or a Best Buy and see for yourself.

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