Much has been made about the coming SmartHome – it started with the Jetsons and their robots, however the reality has been a bit slow coming. Last week, EnergySage+WiseAir+Schneider launched an offer of $300 cash back if you install solar power and a smart thermostat. Back in February, SolarCity+Nest+Tesla introduced the “Smart Energy Home” that combines solar panels, battery storage, smart electric water heaters and the Nest Learning Thermostat. Vermont utilities are renting PowerWalls. It has become clear the home energy generation & management is on the path into powering the SmartHome.
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New homes, commercial structures, sub developments, microgrids and even whole cities are planning for all future structures to include electricity generation via solar power. Construction companies want a piece of the the $400B/year retail electricity market, and they’re more than happy building the 15,000GW of solar power predicted in the next 12 years. SolarCity and Tesla want to make sure you can use the electricity anytime you want. The utility company wants you to manage your use to ease the strain on its networks.
Home electricity management will grow even more as electric new car sales replace gas car sales by 2025 and start partially charging at home. The average monthly home electricity use will increase from 900kWh to potentially 1500kW (1.9 cars * 13,476 miles/year * 3.6 miles/kWh) – that 66% growth is shifting directly from the oil companies and during a time when broader electricity sales have fallen five out of eight years. The market is even deemed of national security importance with the Department of Energy designing a 3D Printed house + vehicle whose electricity use is directly tied together.
Competing in marketplaces like above, where power companies compete for high levels of efficiency, one of two key advantages that energy generation and management has becomes clear – upgrades have a clearly calculable return on investment. Gas & electricity is a closely tracked cost by families, heavily influencing purchases – SUVs and Solar Power as two examples. Banks give loans on clearly defined energy savings – and the kind of predictability that comes from solar energy means banks trust loaning on solar power.
Prior advances in SmartHomes have included ecosystems by Apple, smart light bulbs, smoke alarms, security systems, watering your lawn and other household appliances. The image below, found at Nutihouse, lays out many of these ideas. A fault of these items, in my eyes, is their ad hoc nature and many management systems.
And here is where the second advantage arises – an energy management installation done at time of home construction will involve connecting to every outlet and electricity consuming piece of hardware in the house, truly adding a layer of all-encompassing intelligence to that home (all things that already exist – but aren’t implemented for lack of a killer app). Already, we can watch individual solar modules via respected technology leaders – and it this technology and other granualized pieces of data that will be required for everyone connected to the grid if the Department of Energy is going to meet its goals of 100%+ daytime solar power. With college students being trained in the art of ultra efficiency home design, this is a future that seems to be coming soon.
My vision for the smart home includes indoor gardening and raising of meat connected to a digital chef that understands you nutrient needs over time, 3D Printers directly ordering construction material delivered by drone from The Matter Store and an AI that constantly speaks with you collecting and contemplating the data surrounding those conversations while mining BitCoins in the meantime. All of these things will draw more energy into your house – energy that was once spent in factories around the world – making energy management all the more important. Any home that doesn’t know how to manage itself within an ultra efficient global energy network – won’t be purchased by tomorrow’s savvy customers.
Of course, all of this is a bit of a leap from $300 back for a thermostat + solar panels, but remember that we are in times of exponential technological change driving disruption – who would have thought you’d be connected to a global intelligence network 24-7 via your pocket computer not so long ago?