Real-Time Energy Pricing Comes Color-Coded

The era of knowing little more about your home energy use than the scant info revealed in the monthly bill from the power company–not much beyond how many kilowatt-hours your household consumed, and what it all cost–might be coming to an end. And in pretty nifty fashion.

Consider the Energy Joule, a home energy monitor from Ambient Devices that displays the amount and current price of energy being consumed by a home’s inhabitants. Powered by Zigbee, a bundle of high-level wireless communication protocols (think of it as a global wireless device translator), the Energy Joule is able to display up-to-the-minute energy prices thanks to its communication with the smart meter, thus making it possible for consumers to make wiser energy choices, again in real time–something the antiquated electricity bill could never do.

Ambient Energy Joule

image via Ambient Devices

For Ambient Devices, the Energy Joule is the newest in a suite of smart energy displays (like the Energy Orb that we reported on last year) that silently and unobtrusively help homeowners see how they are using energy and how they can also save it during “peak” periods when it’s more expensive. (Of course, this assumes that consumers are buying their electricity under some kind of time-of-day pricing scheme, which is still rare.)

Changing colors, from green to yellow to red as electricity prices rise or fall during the day, the Energy Joule sends a visual clue to homeowners that it is time to shut down the dishwasher, turn down the central air conditioning unit, and wait to wash that load of whites. According to Ambient Energy’s CEO, Pritesh Gandhi, the company’s products have been shown to reduce individual household energy consumption by up to 25 percent. That’s a significant difference, and welcome news to utilities struggling to deliver electricity to ever-larger service areas from the same set of aging coal– or oil-fired power plants, natural gas-fired peaking plants, and intermittent renewable energy sources.