EcoFactor may have been something of a latecomer to home energy management but it is making up for time.
The company, which has created a system that controls home energy consumption through broadband gateways, came out of stealth mode in early November. A few weeks later it won the prize at the Cleantech Open.
Now, it has raised $2.4 million--not an outrageous amount, but better than nothing--from Claremont Creek Ventures and a few others.
EcoFactor's appeal in a way is sort of like the appeal of some political candidates: it is promising because it avoids the potential pitfalls and gaffes of others. In EcoFactor's system, a wireless thermostat sends data to a home DSL or cable box. No smart meter needed. A continual exchange of data between the home gateway and EcoFactor's servers then allows EcoFactor's servers to modulate the temperature up or down according to parameters set by the consumer and data gathered about a consumer's usage and behavior.
The centralized servers also analyze local weather patterns in order to forecast or devise a cooling/heating strategy for the next 24 hours. The weather data, along with the historical data about your home, effectively forms a thermal profile of your home that allows the company to fine-tune power consumption and reduction.
"It's like cruise control for the air conditioner," CEO John Steinberg told us then. "We are not taking away any form of control. We are doing what you would do if you were paying attention."
Oncor, the Texas utility, has tested the system in a limited number of homes and contracted with EcoFactor to install the system into close to 2,000 homes. That will give Oncor approximately 3 megawatts worth of demand response capacity it can turn to on emergency days.
The company in a lot of ways seems like an amalgamation of technologies and strategies from other companies. Like Hydropoint Data Systems, EcoFactor exploits satellite weather data to improve how resources are managed. (Hydropoint turns up and down sprinklers with the weather.) Like Comverge and Advanced Telemetry, it provides demand response services for utilities and energy management for homes.
And, like GainSpan, Cisco Systems, AT&T, Verizon and likely Comcast, it wants to run the systems on existing, standards-based platforms that can be installed before smart grid rollouts. Thus, no proprietary hardware issues. EcoFactor, in fact, will likely resell its services through communications carriers trying to get into energy management, eliminating some of the channel issues.
Claremont Creek also has an investment in Clean Power Finance, which has a software-as-a-service to for solar installers. CPF was founded by Gary Kremen, who was involved with Match.com and Sex.com.