Home Energy Management (HEM) refers to technology that helps homeowners improve home energy efficiency while also giving them access to household products from tablets, smartphones and computers. HEM systems save people on energy consumption (thus money) and time. With the remote controlled access, one can control thermostats, lights, smart outlets and plug strips, other appliances or home monitors via the internet.
HEM systems include smart thermostats, smart appliances that regulate energy consumption, smart outlets and smart plug strips that turn completely off when not in use. An increasingly common addition to HEM systems are home monitors, including ones that provide home security systems. However, the product that best exemplifies HEM is the programmable thermostat.
Of the smart thermostats, The Nest (the pioneer of this technology, introduced to the mass market in 2011), continues to be the most popular brand. The Nest makes it simple to change the temperature of your home from your computer, mobile device or tablet. Another popular and innovative smart product, the Ecobee3, is an example of a smart thermostat that offers an additional unique feature. With the Ecobee3, thermostats can be programmed to control the temperature in up to 32 rooms (with additional sensors). If the temperature in a multistory home varies from room to room due to a standard HVAC, the Ecobee3 offers a solution. These are two examples of user-friendly smart thermostats.
Another HEM product is the smart outlet. With the smart outlet, the power of any home appliance can be measured. Through a tablet, smartphone, or PC, the outlets can also be used to set schedules for lights or electronics. The schedules can be coordinated with the grid to have a reduction in energy consumption during peak energy production hours, if the utility offers such data. Smart appliances (like a smart washer/ dryer) can reduce their energy consumption during peak hours as well. In addition, the latest in HEM offerings is a complete home monitoring system with smart outlets, combined home alarm and security system and a a remote controlled thermostat.
Today, service providers other than utilities are at the forefront in the smart grid, in part due to HEM products. Companies that provide cable, internet and smart phone services are now adding energy monitoring, control and optimization services to their offerings, pushing utilities into a supporting role. Utilities and service providers are both experimenting with different approaches. The service provider is a promising alternative to utilities to extend the smart grid into more homes.