Tis the season for a cozy home and flickering lights strung across rooftops — but as we all know by now, heating and lighting our homes can often be a very inefficient practice. To meet that challenge, startups like 1-year-old EnergyHub are emerging with slick hardware, software and network technology to help homeowners smartly manage their energy consumption. And CEO Seth Frader-Thompson tells us the startup is planning to start selling directly to consumers as well as to utilities sometime in the middle of 2009.
First, however, EnergyHub will launch a 50-home pilot trial in an East Coast city with a yet-to-be-named utility. After that, the startup plans to sell directly to consumers and to utility customers — that’s a little different than some of the new companies in the smart home space, which plan to offer gear solely through utilities. The reason a lot of startups tend to opt for the utility first is it can be difficult and expensive for small, young companies to do the marketing, and reach the scale of manufacturing required for the consumer market.
But EnergyHub’s product is also a little different than those of its competitors. The company is focusing a lot of its innovation, and placing a lot of intelligence in the dashboard itself. “It’s basically an ultra-mobile PC (UMPC),” explained Frader-Thompson to us in an interview. The dashboard contains enough computing power to provide detailed Google-style spreadsheets for programming your energy usage; it also offers features such as one comparing last week’s energy use to this week’s, or your home’s energy usage to that of other EnergyHub users.
The dashboard device also houses the Internet connection, ZigBee wireless connection and a touchscreen interface. Other smart home competitors, meanwhile, are placing more smarts in the software and web site interface, leaving the dashboard to be more of a dumb device that receives data from other sources. While that will undoubtedly lower their price tags, Frader-Thompson thinks the owner of a nice home, say, would look to buy EnergyHub’s higher-end device as a point of pride. He says it also won’t cost more than a few hundred dollars
Frader-Thompson adds that EnergyHub’s dashboard in a way recreates the PC experience, and that consumers will subsequently be able to use it more easily as opposed to an entirely new system. He thinks the dashboard will be the main place through which the home owner will control energy use, as opposed to many startups that are betting consumers will want to turn to the web to monitor their energy consumption. To that notion, Frader-Thompson asks, “If you were cold would you go online to turn up your thermostat?”
EnergyHub is in the process of raising its first round of financing, details of which it plans to announce shortly. EnergyHub is just one of many startups and established companies developing tools to manage energy in the home. To learn about more companies — and 25 hot startups, of which EnergyHub is one — check out our Smart Home Briefing.