Smart thermostats are taking over Las Vegas, and that’s a good thing

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After testing out EcoFactor’s smart cloud-connected thermostat service in Las Vegas, Nevada utility NV Energy is now mass deploying the energy efficiency service throughout Sin City. The initial pilot project showed that EcoFactor’s service can cut homes’ cooling costs by 13 percent during the blazing Summer months, and can shave off 3 kilowatts of energy per home when the utility needs it.

EcoFactor has developed smart algorithms that can control connected thermostats to reduce a building’s overall energy consumption. The system learns the customer’s behavior and can shave off energy consumption without the occupant really knowing. The service can also enable utilities to practice what the power industry calls demand response, where during peak energy usage hours of the day (like a hot summer day) a utility can turn down the energy use of amenable customers.

NV Energy is offering the efficiency service to its customers under the mPowered brand, and those customers can see reduced energy bills. EcoFactor is supposed to enable NV Energy to cut a minimum of 20 MW in Las Vegas market during the first phase of the mass deployment.

The mass deployment is a major milestone for the development of more automated, more consumer-focused demand response services. For a long time demand response has been manual, where large building owners or factory owners agree to manually turn down their energy use during peak times in exchange for compensation. The utility would alert them to the demand response time by phone call or email. But with automated systems and residential-focused services, demand response can be much more efficient and convenient.

EcoFactor was founded in 2006 and launched in late 2009. Its software plugs in a lot of data about things like weather and demographics, and combines that data with information about the home owners’ behavior. Think of EcoFactor’s software like Nest’s learning thermostat, but without the Nest hardware. EcoFactor is also working with Reliant Energy and Comcast and is backed by Aster Capital, Claremont Creek Ventures and RockPort Capital Partner.

EcoFactor is an example of the rise of startups using big data and machine learning to reduce energy usage.

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