The battle for control of residential energy continues. Add PassivSystems to the many contenders vying for control of the home energy network.
Last year, Wheb Ventures made an investment in U.K.-based home energy management firm PassivSystems, a startup helmed by Colin Calder, a notable entrepreneur. The company has since acquired Digital Living, a residential home energy consultancy.
According to Calder, PassivSystems' CEO, they've started with the consumer. "Consumers have embraced new technology in the home -- internet, broadband, etc. They love it when it improves their lifestyle. But the home itself has been left behind. We don't believe that people want more information. People have extremely busy lives and they don't want to be the home energy manager."
Calder asks, "How do you want to live your life? [...] None of us live around a fixed schedule and people don't want a complex box, a complex display and a complex interface," according to the CEO.
There are four possible states for the home: At home and active, at home and asleep, out of the home and out of the home on vacation. "It's simple once you understand that the home is in one of those four states," said Calder.
Calder speaks of "adaptive occupancy control." When you go out, PassivSystems' intelligent wireless hub manages home heating and cooling as well as electronics-standby with one operation. A single button puts the house in a low energy state.
The value proposition for the consumer is increased comfort. PassivSystems claims to have the most advanced HVAC and boiler sensors and heating and cooling controls -- with the ability to maintain temperature within half a degree. The system has weather compensation and can learn the thermal properties of the home. The bottom line, according to the CEO, is that their system reduces hassle, increases comfort, reduces carbon footprint and provides up to a 28 percent reduction in energy usage, simply by taking the existing thermostat off the wall and replacing it with their wirelessly controlled device.
"The thermal properties of the home" means knowing the typical times that people take showers and anticipating water and power usage, or keeping track of the typical times that people go to sleep.
According to the CEO, "Because we understand how the energy is used in the home, we understand your heating and cooling requirements. We know when you're home, so we can now do demand response," adding, "It's not a blind approach on demand response. When the utility wants to shave energy, we can deliver demand response without impacting consumer lifestyles."
As renewables are brought on or as electric vehicle charging is added to the mix, PassivSystems sees themselves managing that entire ecosystem.
So who pays for this?
The consumer opts in to a "tariff-based scheme," according to Calder. Furthermore, the tariff could also pay for the hardware. It becomes a partnership between the consumer and energy company, according to the CEO. In the U.K., the systems price starts at about $375 upfront and then about $12 per month.
Calders' experience in mobile networking informs the HAN product design. It's an open system that supports multiple wireless mesh networks, such as Zigbee, zwave, homeplug, etc. The hub can be online over the internet, over the local utility's network, or over WiFi, allowing the firm to make platform changes on the fly.
Other companies looking at this nascent market include Microsoft, Google, Tendril, Control4, Onzo, Gridpoint and many more.