Control4 adds energy monitoring to home network

Best known for its home entertainment controllers, Control4 gets funds to expand into smart-grid products to monitor and control home energy use.

Home-area network company Control4 wants you to control your energy consumption and home entertainment from the same box.

The Salt Lake City-based company on Wednesday said that it has raised $17.3 million to fund its expansion into energy monitoring and displays. The company plans to introduce its "energy controller," a thermostat that can connect to smart meters, early next year.

One of the investors is the venture arm of Best Buy, which indicated earlier this week that it is looking at offering products for managing climate-control systems in stores.

Control4 is best known for its products for managing a home theater, or music from a console or remote control. Devices are networked via Zigbee or Wi-Fi connections.

Control4's display for managing home energy along with some media. Control4 via Smart Grid News

The company already offers a networked thermostat, the Control4 Wireless Thermostat, that allows people to control temperature settings. With the new funding, the company plans to include smart meters, which have two-way communications built in, into the home-area network.

That integration will allow consumers to monitor their energy use in real time and find ways to save money, according to Control4. Also, Control4's system will allow people to program thermostats, lights, and big energy consumers like pools, according to the company.

There's a growing number of monitoring products, such as Google's Web-based PowerMeter , that show real-time energy usage and details, such as how much individual appliances consume. The idea is that surfacing the details makes consumers more conscious of energy consumption and helps scale it back.

Control4's push into energy monitoring is significant because there are few home energy displays that are appealing to the majority of consumers, wrote Jesse Berst, founding editor of SmartGridNews.com.

"If you look at the results from early pilots with primitive in-home displays, usage falls off after the first three months or so. First of all, who wants to peer at a dinky black-and-white LCD screen and decipher cryptic icons and abbreviated text messages? Second, who wants to tinker with settings every day?

"Control4 has a 'cruise control' model instead. Customers set their preferences, who then sit back and relax while the system keeps things in bounds. Meanwhile the energy analytics start providing information customers can use to reduce their bills," he said.

Control4 has also developed a system so utilities can offer demand-response programs to consumers and businesses. That will allow a utility to dial down energy use through a smart meter in a person's home at peak times in exchange for some sort of discount.

Berst said that Control4 has not yet signed on any utilities to offer its home displays to consumers as part of smart-grid programs.

 

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