Navigant Research Blog

In-Home Energy Displays: Not Dead Yet

Neil Strother — January 3, 2014

The in-home energy display (IHD) market is still relevant, even though many people wrote off this device category a couple of years ago.  Several vendors and utilities report that residential customers are using the devices to help reduce energy consumption and lower bills (for more details on this market, see Navigant Research’s Home Energy Management report published in 4Q 2013). California’s Glendale Water & Power (GWP) provides one example of some traction for IHDs that connect to smart meters.  The utility and its IHD supplier, Ceiva Energy, recently released a new survey showing that customers involved in a pilot who received a Ceiva Homeview frame enhanced their understanding of energy use and did some experimenting:

  • Awareness of hourly electricity costs increased 19 percentage points, from 4% before the device was installed to 23% after
  • Awareness about the time of day they used the most electricity nearly doubled, from 18% to 35%
  • 83% experimented with their consumption, either turning lights on or off, or turning appliances on or off

Since GWP also supplies water to customers, the survey asked about changes in water consumption after the Homeview frame was installed, with 48% of respondents saying they took action, either adjusting their lawn watering schedule or reducing water usage in the home.  Ceiva’s device is also part of another pilot at National Grid in Worcester, Massachusetts, though results of that trial are not yet available.

Right Time & Place

San Diego Gas & Electric, meanwhile, has tested and approved not only Ceiva’s device but also ones from vendors such as Aztech Associates and Rainforest Automation.  Also, northern California utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric has tested IHDs and approved models built by Aztech Associates and Energy Aware.  These IHDs enable homeowners to set up energy-focused home area networks (HANs) and wirelessly connect to smart meters in order to view power consumption in near real-time.  Armed with this data, they can make more informed choices and use energy more efficiently. Outside of the United States, IHDs have also made some inroads.  In Ontario, Canada, a free provincewide program called peaksaver PLUS includes an IHD for customers who enroll; now in its second year, the program provides average savings on bills of about 9%.  One of the key drivers of adoption is the fact that the province is now on time-of-use (TOU) rates, which encourage people to use less energy when electricity rates are high.  So far, some 140,000 homes have displays supplied by Blue Line Innovations, among other providers.   Additionally, Hydro One, a utility serving rural areas of Ontario, has a pilot program to install IHDs from Ambient Devices; results of that trial are still pending.

The Smartphone Factor

In the United Kingdom, millions of IHDs are expected to be installed in the coming years as part of the government’s mandated smart meter deployment.  An IHD is to be made available to every home and small business (some 30 million in all) that receives a new smart electric and gas meter over the next 7 years. As one IHD manufacturer told me recently, IHDs are not dead as a product category, though they have struggled to gain wider attention in a market where app-enabled smartphones and tablets have come to lead.  Therein lies the challenge: despite these concrete examples, overall adoption of IHDs remains low, in the single-digit percentages of utility customers or lower.  Many of these devices work well at communicating consumption, and customers find them useful.  But the trend is toward providing consumption data to the mobile devices that consumers already own and use, which is more convenient for most people.  The BYOD (bring your own device) movement makes it difficult to see a rapidly growing market for IHDs in coming years – outside mandated situations like the United Kingdom or Ontario.

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