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Consert raises funds for 3G smart energy home

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Consert, a startup that uses Verizon’s 3G network to curb energy consumption of homes, is in the process of raising $8.75 million in equity and debt, according to a filing. The company has closed on about $7 million of the round, and previously raised $17.7 million from GE Energy Financial Services, Verizon Ventures, Qualcomm and Constellation Energy.

Consert works by installing wireless nodes in a smart meter, and energy consuming devices like a water heater, heating and air conditioning units, and pool pumps. A home or building also gets a connected smart thermostat. The connected devices then all talk to the smart meter (which also has a Consert gateway inside), which in turn connects to Consert’s data center via Verizon’s 3G network. The home or building owner can monitor the energy consumption of these devices and participate in automated energy efficiency programs.

Consert, founded in 2008, says its system can help a home owner save 10 to 20 percent on an energy bill. The company has done a small trial of 100 homes in Fayetteville, N.C., but I haven’t heard of any other larger trials or commercial deployments.

There are a couple of things about using a 3G network for home energy management that could be interesting. The network can offer services in real-time, as opposed to once every 15 minutes, or once an hour or once every 24 hours, which is common for other utility smart grid networks. Also 93 percent of areas are covered by Verizon 3G, according to GE Energy Financial Services Managing Director Kevin Skillern, in a talk last year (he led GE’s investment in the company). Using energy management to help proliferate wireless broadband customers is also an unusual move, but it has clearly gotten the telcos to climb on board in this case.

However, one of the potential hurdles I see for the idea is that sending technicians to hook up HVAC systems, pool pumps and water heaters could get expensive. Though, Verizon could always help Consert tap into its broadband technician pipeline. Another hurdle is that consumers are just not all that interested in home energy management right now, and this market is still really early.