Time to check the juice

A handful of home energy management companies showed off their energy display systems at a hearing on broadband and energy held by the FCC on Monday in Cambridge, Mass.

Here is EnergyHub's dashboard, which is being tested at three utilities in the U.S. The small display gives people a way to quickly see how much electricity they are using at a given time. By giving people regular information on their usage, they can cut electricity use between 5 and 15 percent, according to studies.

EnergyHub's system is being used in conjunction with smart meters in its initial trials, but energy information can also be gathered by creating a wireless home-area network. The display has a Zigbee wireless chip that can communicate with a networked thermostat and smart plugs (see on left). That network also allows people to program appliances and ratchet down energy use as part of demand-response programs run by utilities. EnergyHub is selling its products through utilities initially, but it expects the retail cost to be about $250 for the display and thermostat and $35 for Zigbee-enabled plugs.

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Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET / Caption by:

Tendril taps broadband for energy management

This display shows the primary components of a networked home-energy management system. There is a smart meter that can communicate with a wireless gateway next to it. To the left of that is a wireless thermostat for controlling heating and cooling.

The Tendril Volt is a Zigbee-enabled plug that allows people to monitor energy use and control appliances plugged into it. Insight is the name of the company's energy display that shows people electricity use, associated carbon footprint, and other applications. Data from the system can also be viewed on a Web portal. Like most energy management companies, Tendril's products are available through utilities that are giving customers energy-management systems during smart grid trials.

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Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET / Caption by:

iPhone home for electricity dashboard

Because energy information is available on a home network, that data can be transferred to Tendril via an Internet connection. That means usage data can be viewed on Internet-enabled phones like this iPhone.

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Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET / Caption by:

iControl's security cum energy system

iControl is entering the home energy management business through its existing home-automation product line. The company develops software used for managing a home security system, which includes networked cameras and security gateways. Pictured here is GE's Simon XT home security system in the middle. On the left is a home energy display and control system also made by GE.

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Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET / Caption by:

iControl software on GE energy display

A closer look at a prototype energy display running iControl's software, where people can adjust security settings and can program appliances such as lights. The platform allows for a few other applications, such as viewing photos and information services like traffic, weather, and news.

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Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET / Caption by:

Control4's energy display

Control4 is another start-up entering energy management from another business--in this case, home media management. The company in January plans to release an energy display (seen in the middle) that can give a real-time read-out of electricity usage and control heating, cooling, and other appliances. It works in a wireless home network communicating with thermostats and appliances plugged into wireless network-enabled sockets.

The company plans to open up an app store for the platform so people can access Web services, such as Flickr, from the same interface, said Collin Breakstone, director of business development in Control4's Energy Systems group.

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Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET / Caption by:

Opto 22 business energy management

Energy monitoring is also starting to take hold in businesses, which are looking to lower energy spending and their carbon emissions. Opto 22 sells a monitoring module that works with larger energy systems used in industry. The data is collected and analyzed to help building managers find ways to be more efficient.

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Photo by: Martin LaMonica/CNET / Caption by:

PowerHouse Dynamics analytics

Many energy management companies are providing detailed energy usage information via a Web portal and transmitting that data from a home broadband connection. PowerHouse Dynamics plans to release its energy-management display, called eMonitor, and software in January, CEO Martin Flusberg said. To get detailed usage information, consumers or electricians need to install clamps at the circuit box.

PowerHouse Dynamics plans to sell the energy management system through solar installers and energy efficiency companies, Flusberg said. In addition to monitoring data, the system will be able to send out alerts and summary e-mails. The cost of the system will vary depending on the retail channel and added services but Flusberg said the price will be about $600 plus a monthly fee of $8.

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Photo by: Power House Dynamics / Caption by:
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