Thursday, May 22, 2008

Energy Management Options

Mike Brewer's post today on his Property Management blog inspired me to run through some of the other energy management options available on the market today.

The Home Joule (pictured) is a slick little device that ConsumerPowerline is offering in the New York area.

It analyzes energy price data from the utility company and usage data for each user, then provides a display to the user that changes color and provides other indicators that help determine if energy consumption needs to be adjusted. It all operates on a pager network. Just as messages to specific pagers go only to those users, so do the energy signals find their way to the right Joules.

Companies like Control4, HAI, Honeywell and others have thermostats that are not only programmable, but accessible via the Internet. That means they can be programmed and monitored from the leasing center or a corporate office, which could come in handy for vacant units. The ability to set temperature ranges -- and email/text alerts when things aren't as they should be -- could be a huge benefit for apartment operations teams.

The unit pictured below is from Proliphix -- it's actually an IP-addressable device, so it doesn't require any extra adapters or modules to get it connected to the network. The data can be accessed from an individual webpage, or can be ported to a custom management portal ... I could see this integrating with property management software programs. (Put a unit in 'Vacant' mode upon move-out.)
Proliphix networked thermostat
Most of these devices cost significantly more than regular programmable thermostats, which has prevented them from taking off in the multifamily industry. For example the cheapest I could find online for one of the Cent-a-Meters that Mike covered was $152 each.

However, as the price of energy rises and the prices of electronics continue to fall, these types of solutions will surely continue to gain traction. There's a real ROI case to be made here, not to mention a resident-empowering "be green... take control of your energy" message that marketers could certainly run with.

Do you have other energy control solutions that you're using in your community? Do prospects respond well to them? Do residents actually use them? What would it take for you to switch to a more manageable solution like this?

Thanks for getting the conversation started, Mike!

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