So you say you have a smart meter in your home, installed by your regional utility to monitor and record your electricity usage in real time? That’s nice, of course, but it’s also so … yesterday.
Today, according to GE, you can not only monitor your home’s energy use on an hour-by-hour basis, but you can have the results sent to your iPhone, Asus or even your PC if you prefer. And all in a modest-sized device called a Whole-Home Sensor. It seems like a small step, but in fact it could be one of those giant leaps that technology makes possible in the 21st century.
The Whole-Home Sensor could solve several potential issues presented by smart meters. One is that smart meter technology uses radio frequency (RF) technology. Although organization’s like the Environmental Defense Fund have studied the science and come to the conclusion that RF does not pose a health risk, some people believe otherwise, and quite strongly. Billing issues have also arisen, and generally utilities have done a poor job implementing smart meter technology.
So while most home energy management companies continue to collaborate with utilities and their smart meters, GE is cutting out the middleman here with the Whole-Home Sensor—a potentially significant step considering GE’s size and power, and the big commitment it has made to what it terms the “home-energy solutions” category.
Company representatives call the new GE Whole-Home Sensor a leveling of the playing field. In effect, it’s really a whole new ballgame—one in which the homeowner, and not the power company, is on third. And this “connected home” paradigm extends to individual plug-ins, what GE calls Smart Plugs, which can provide homeowners with energy use data on individual appliances or groups, for example a suite of electronics like a computer tower, monitor, mouse, keyboard, and printer/scanner/fax.
The Whole-Home Sensor, a component in what GE has trademarked its Brillion suite of home energy solution innovations, is being tested as you read this, at Flint Energies, a Georgia-based power company (not to be confused with Flint Energy N. America). The two-year test run of this smart grid pilot project will see 10 Flint Energies households getting the full Brillion suite, including a programmable thermostat, the Whole-Home Sensor and the Nucleus Energy manager. The goal is to help consumers save money on their utility bill and, secondarily, to reduce energy use so that periods of peak demand do not strain power plants into a brownout.