By Steven Castle, GreenTech Advocates
We were hoping something like this would happen: ThinkEco’s innovative modlet smart plug that can help people save energy and monitor the electricity usage of devices is now available through Best Buy. The retail giant is starting to roll out energy efficiency and energy management devices in some pilot stores and its web site.
The modlet is now available at the new Best Buy Home Energy retail concept debuting at three Best Buy stores located in Houston, Chicago, and San Carlos, Calif. It can also be found at BestBuy.com under Home Safety & Energy Management.
What’s so great about a $50 plug-in module? And why are we excited that it’s available through a big-box retailer?
First, the wirelessly communicating modlet is an easy way for consumers to save energy around a house and slowly build an intelligent energy management network. You simply plug in a device you want to monitor and control, go through a quick software setup and schedule automatic shut-offs of the device. Or, the modlet can track your energy usage patterns and make recommendations to help you save energy.
Pretty cool. But why are we glad to see it available in a retail outlet like Best Buy? Because cool and easy energy management products available to the mass market by a huge retailer has the potential of introducing millions to energy efficiency technologies for their homes. What home energy management suffers from most is consumer awareness—and products like the modlet being available at Best Buy can go a long way to changing that.
We’ve identified big box retailers in the past as being one the key drivers for energy management in the home. Other big drivers include service providers like ADT, Comcast, Verizon and Vivint rolling out basic energy management features with security and connectivity systems; electric vehicles; (EVs) and the smart grid. EVs and the smart grid aren’t ready for primetime, and the service providers’ energy management solutions haven’t exactly been taking the world by storm. So thank you, Best Buy.
The two-outlet modlet communicates via wireless ZigBee technology, and several can be placed around the house to form an energy management network. It can also be controlled via a smartphone app. Additional modlets can be purchased for $45.
ThinkEco estimates that cutting power to a cable box alone for 12 hours a day results in annual savings of $17, and cutting power to it 18 hours a day can save $25, based on a rate of 15 cents per kilowatt hour. Light commercial use has showed paybacks in 9 to 11 months with a 6 percent to 10 percent reduction in utility bills, according to Erika Diamond, ThinkEco’s vice president of business development.
Best Buy doesn’t intend on just selling the modlet, of course. (The sleek new Nest thermostat is also available by the retailer online.) Best Buy sees a huge potential in home energy management. According to Seeking Alpha, its three pilot stores will test home energy concepts through an experimental learning center that includes an online self-assessment platform.
The platform was built by Energy Results, a Chicago-based company that offers the software platform on its website to help homeowners, and even renters, understand the best energy efficiency measures for them and then how to take action.
Best Buy also announced that it will implement new energy management systems in U.S. stores to cut energy costs and carbon by 15 percent within three years.