Cleantech Market Intelligence
ThinkEco and Carrier Bring Cloud Capabilities to Thermostats
Carrier, the venerable heating-cooling hardware vendor, has partnered with startup ThinkEco to offer a new integrated smart thermostat that will enable consumers to register their central and window air conditioners with utility demand response (DR) and energy efficiency (EE) programs.
Carrier’s ComfortChoice Touch thermostat will combine with ThinkEco’s cloud platform, which is called “modlet” (stands for “modern electric outlet”). The modlet platform can function without the need for a smart meter. It also enables utilities to have access to real-time load data from window air conditioning (AC) units, and to control through DR programs all types of AC loads.
Because the platform resides in the cloud, consumers benefit by having access to their central AC systems through any web browser or mobile device using either the iOS or Android operating system. So, for instance, a user could be miles from home on a hot afternoon but planning to arrive there in 45 minutes; thus, from a smartphone, the user could set the AC to start cooling the house now so it would be at a comfortable temperature upon arrival. And though this functionality is not new (other vendors such as EnergyHub, EcoFactor, and Nest enable mobile-device access), it’s quickly emerging as a must-have feature for the latest energy management devices and cloud services.
For The DIYers
For now, Carrier and ThinkEco have yet to announce whether any utilities have agreed to offer their new thermostat-cloud setup. However, given ThinkEco’s award-winning program with Con Edison last year in New York City that involved energy savings through window AC units, it’s a safe bet Con Edison is at least taking a look at a trial. Carrier has no plans to sell the device through retail channels; the company will only offer it direct to utilities for DR or EE programs. That is a choice worth reconsidering, in my view, as this thermostat would appeal to a wider audience of do-it-yourselfers. Also, the HVAC-installer channel seems like a good fit for the device as well. The selling price for the ZigBee-enabled thermostat was not disclosed, with Carrier saying only that it depends on volume. However, it is likely to sell for less than $150, based on competing products in the programmable communicating thermostat (PCT) category.
The Carrier-ThinkEco alliance provides both partners with competitive advantages. For New York City-based ThinkEco, it wins an expanded role in energy management and gains valuable branding recognition through its association with a household name. It also provides ThinkEco’s utility partners more options for engagement with customers – to go beyond the meter. For Carrier, the ThinkEco partnership enhances its product with new services that tech-savvy consumers like, and it fits with utility goals for EE and DR. It also underscores an ongoing strategy by Carrier, which has struck similar deals with other energy management software providers in the recent past, namely Comverge and EnergyHub.
While this one partnership alone does not signal a giant step forward, it does have the potential to move the needle for home energy management. This is the right kind of hardware and software innovation needed to drive the market, and shows that companies besides Nest can deliver new solutions, too.