Smart home management software saves energy, costs

August 13, 2018 //By Nick Flaherty
Smart home management software saves energy, costs
Researchers at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed an energy management system that relies on user preferences to control and coordinate a home's connected appliances and electronics.

The "foresee" software first asks users to rank what's most important to them about living in their home. Then it takes those preferences into account and automatically adjusts and aligns all the connected devices.

"Right now, if you had a smart dishwasher, a smart washer/dryer, and a smart water heater, you'd have to set up the schedule for everything yourself," says Bethany Sparn, a mechanical engineer and researcher at NREL. "You'd have to think about how the appliances interact with each other, the occupants, the building, and the power grid. Deciding when you should turn on your lights seems reasonably intuitive, but how should you control your water heater to reduce your utility bill and use solar energy from your solar panels, without risking your hot shower?"

NREL partnered with Bosch and Colorado State University on the preference-driven building automation project. Bosch supplied a suite of appliances: an air conditioner, refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. In addition, the researchers used an electric water heater and a connected thermostat, as well as a photovoltaic inverter and a battery to capture and store electricity generated from the sun.

"Having automation that's built in, that has an understanding of what's required to keep people happy, is definitely not something that's on the market now," said Sparn.

Users typically identify four goals for their house: comfortable air temperature and hot water, convenience, reduced costs, and a low environmental impact. But the order and importance of these goals are different for every household.

"These four categories are hard to trade off against each other," says Dane Christensen, leader of NREL's Residential Systems Performance team and principal investigator on the project. "At foresee's core is a goal of running the home in a balanced way that best serves that family's unique values and schedule. Your goals are going to be different from my family's, just like a retiree on a fixed income is likely to


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