Meet a water heater with Wi-Fi and a little bit of AI

As much fun as it is to connect my lights, there are plenty of less sexy appliances and items that could probably benefit more from a bit of connectivity. Such as the humble water heater, which according to the U.S. Department of Energy is the second largest consumer of energy in most U.S. homes, at 19 percent.

That’s why the Aquanta system from Sunnovations caught my eye when it was applying to be a [email protected] participant at Structure Connect, which kicks off Tuesday and carries through Wednesday in San Francisco. The McLean, Virginia-based company makes a sensor that you thread into a port on your water heater. The sensor measures the change in energy caused by the continual heating and dissipation of that heat inside the tank, and is connected to a Wi-Fi module that sits on top of the tank.

From that information it can track how much hot water a home uses, anticipating when someone is likely to need hot water and getting it ready. The rest of the time, the temperature in the tank can fluctuate to a much lower temperature than generally allowed. This saves on the energy needed to keep the water at a constant 120 degrees, but it also has the added benefit of making sure hot water is available when someone needs it.

And because it just takes a new algorithm, the data collected can also be translated into other useful information such as leak detection or showing in dollar amounts how much that 20-minute shower just cost you. Matt Carlson, CEO of Sunnovations, said the product is only designed for water heaters that have tanks, and that installation can be done by a professional or a “competent DIYer.”

The product will cost $149 and compete with other connected water heater modules such as those from Rheem at the Home Depot, which is part of the Wink system. The Sunnovations folks will be demonstrating the product at Structure Connect and plan to launch a Kickstarter funding effort later this month. The product should ship in the second quarter of 2015.