What big data and smart thermostats can reveal about us

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Energy software startup EnergyHub is powering around 100,000 connected thermostats in the U.S. with its management software called Mercury. While that might not sound like a whole lot, those 100,000 thermostats are producing around 5 billion data points each month, and that’s starting to reveal some interesting trends about how Americans consume energy.

EnergyHub says through crunching its customers’ energy data it’s discovered such counterintuitive notions like: folks in cold climates have a lower average heating temperature set point than households in warmer states. So basically the average person in a warm state like Texas sets his/her heating temperature significantly higher than an average person in a colder state like Vermont — despite that you’d think the person in the cold state would need a lot more heating than the person in the warm state.

But that statistic is probably due to the fact that people in the colder climates would have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on heating if they wanted to heat their homes in a similar fashion to a person in a warmer state — because there are that many more cold days, and those cold days can be really cold. So the people who live in cold states are just, frankly, dealing with it and going without the extra heat. As EnergyHub explained it: “Darwin’s core tenet is alive and well—it appears folks in the colder climates have adapted to their surroundings!”

That tid bit is just an example of the kinds of things that connected thermostats and analytics will be able to reveal about home energy consumption habits. And the more utilities, consumers and companies know about home energy consumption habits, the more energy consumption habits can be shaped and pushed to be more efficient.

EnergyHub’s CEO Seth Frader-Thompson told me in an interview that the company is expecting to add another 100,000 or so connected thermostats to its software platform this year, and much of those will come from utility deals — we have some 16 or so utility deals in trial and commercial stages, says Frader-Thompson. Currently the company’s 100,000 thermostats under management are largely due to service provider deals (like telcos and cable operators), or sold through retailers, and Mercury is the smart software behind Radio Thermostat’s WiFi thermostat.

EnergyHub also sells an energy dashboard and service, but started selling the connected thermostat service after the company’s customers started asking for a stand alone thermostat product. “This is by far our best year for holistic energy solutions,” said Frader-Thompson.

The smart thermostat has gotten a lot of ink in recent months because of the launch of Nest and its learning thermostat. While Nest provides both a well-designed thermostat, and also the behavioral and learning analytics. many of the other energy software startups are now shying away from building the hardware and thermostats themselves.

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