Europeans win hands down on energy efficiency compared to Americans. But there are even more gains to be had. And just as in the U.S., European startups are using technology -- rather than old-fashioned weather stripping -- to wring more efficiency out of homes.
Energy consumption is far lower per household in most of Europe compared to the U.S., but there are still peaks, primarily from heating and not cooling.
German startup Tado is trying to tackle home heating costs with a smart energy platform that learns a home’s patterns and thermal characteristics to save on heating bills. Munich-based Tado just raised $2.6 million, according to TechCrunch.
Many news reports have touted Tado as a European version of the Nest thermostat, which is the media darling of the energy efficiency world (admittedly, the competition isn’t too stiff). But in many ways, Tado is more similar to other offerings on the market than it is to Nest.
Tado does not have any Apple pedigree of note, as Nest does. Technically, it’s not a thermostat, although it can replace a thermostat. The company bills it as a geolocation app for heaters.
The hardware is a small box (one which no one would describe as sleek) that attaches directly to a heating boiler or can replace an existing thermostat. It has no screen. The box then communicates with the Internet through a 6LoWPAN protocol through a dongle that goes into your router.
Once the box is connected, all of the controls come from your smartphone, rather than from the Tado box itself learning your patterns. The smartphones connected to the cloud-based platform communicate back to the house about when people are in and out of the house. For those in the house without a smartphone, such as the family dog, homeowners can set a schedule that works with the geolocation service.
Besides adjusting the heating when people are at home or out of the house, Tado also learns the thermal characteristics of the home and monitors the local weather to stay at the desired temperature as efficiently as possible. The company claims that most residences, even those with pets and small children at home most of the day, could save approximately 20 percent on heating bills.
Unlike many smart thermostats in America, there are some choices on how to pay. Tado charges a monthly service fee of €8.25 ($10.85) or a flat €299 ($393) to own the system outright.
The system works with gas, oil or heat pumps, and gas boilers, and will soon work with apartments with central heating, according to Tado’s website. It officially launched last November in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but is now open to other European users in beta. The new round of funding will be used to expand the company's reach in Europe.
The idea of using a phone’s geolocation capability for smart home control is not new. Allure Energy uses the same features to adjust energy use as people come and go from the home.
The ability to take in various data points, such as weather, is also not specific to Tado or Nest. In fact, it’s a feature that's necessary in order to compete in the current market. EcoFactor, which predates Nest, is also a cloud-based service that learns a home’s thermal characteristics and integrates weather data and other information to fine-tune heating and cooling to save about 20 percent on energy bills. Comcast picked up the technology as part of its Xfinity Home offering.
MyEnergy, Energate, EnergyHub and Earth Networks are just a few of the other companies that also integrate various data into their platforms to deliver increased energy savings.
The latest round of funding came from Target Partners and Shortcut Ventures, which have previously backed Tado to the tune of a reported $2 million.
Watch Tado introduce its product: