Energy on the edge: Reducing waste at home

| Print |  Email
Friday, December 01, 2006

'Honey, I'll be home soon — but you've got the thermostat too high!'

THE SITUATION

Public awareness about energy issues is at an all-time high. Consumers are taking matters into their own hands by purchasing efficient clothes washers and electricity from renewable sources. But reducing the demand for electricity through intelligent use of energy and appliances at home might be the most powerful tool for alleviating the energy crunch.

THE INNOVATION

Along come Rich and Bill Clem, whose Tigard-based startup, Eeco, is bent on making a negawatt —the energy you don't use — as sexy as a megawatt. "Everybody is creating alternative energy. We decided this is something we could do," says Bill, 49, the CEO who's an industrial designer. (Rich, 44, is an electrical engineer who worked at Triquint Semiconductor.) In pursuing tools for consumers to more tightly control their energy use at home, they noticed the dashboard display screen in a Toyota Prius hybrid that shows real-time miles per gallon was a powerful thing: Drivers learned how to avoid inefficient moves in their car — say, quickly accelerating when the car was using gas — because they were getting constant feedback. Eeco's first product, due out this spring, will provide that same sort of interaction with home appliances. A wireless system monitors the thermostat, water heater and other big-ticket items. The info is transmitted to a Web interface accessible by computer or cell phone. The user will be able to see how much energy is being used (and how much CO2 is being dumped into the atmosphere as a result) and turn down the thermostat if they wish, from wherever they are.

DOES IT HAVE JUICE?

This month, the Eeco system goes into live testing at five homes in Oregon. The Clem brothers, who have sunk $100,000 and many hours at Rich's garage lab into the startup, hope to work out the bugs in time for a spring launch. The Eeco system — essentially a new communicative thermostat, appliance switches and a wireless box— will debut for $1,000. Bill Clem says that amount can be made up through wise use and energy savings in one year in a typical 2,200-square-foot house. But the company's biggest hurdle may be convincing people that they really need to see their home energy use in real time. "It's a completely new space," says Bill Clem. "Electricity is invisible and the only time you think about it is when you get the bill." The company's first target market is second-home owners, who typically use their houses for a little over a month per year. For a service fee, Eeco would monitor their homes, as well as local environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, and do much of the interaction with the home's systems — keep the pipes unfrozen and warm it up for arrival. Clem says the company has proprietary methods that allow heating and cooling of homes in a more efficient and incremental manner than just cranking up the thermostat. Monitoring homes for second-home owners is more of a peace-of-mind play — it will be marketed through security system vendors and property managers. But Eeco is obviously pulling for the efficiency savings to be such a slam-dunk that vacationers will put a system in their first home. And at a fraction of the cost of Prius, Eeco will also be giving other green consumers a more affordable chance to change their energy habits.         

— Oakley Brooks


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Emperor of the Sea

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan

Pacific Seafood, one of the world’s largest processors, is rebranding as a more transparent and consumer-friendly operation. A controversial CEO and monopoly accusations from coastal fishermen complicate the tale.


Read more...

Footloose

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Founded 12 years ago, Keen Inc. likes to push the envelope, starting with the debut of the “Newport” closed toe sandal in 2003. Since then, the company has opened a factory on Swan Island and a sleek new headquarters in the Pearl District. The brand’s newest offering, UNEEK, is a sandal made from two woven cords and not much more.


Read more...

100 Best: The Power of the Worker

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
AND AMY MILSHTEIN | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Technology is empowering people like never before and transforming how employees interact in the workplace. How can companies attract and keep staff engaged in this rapidly changing world?


Read more...

Downtime with the executive director of Greater Portland Inc.

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Janet LaBar, Executive director, Greater Portland Inc.


Read more...

Letting Go

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

As baby boomers sell their businesses, too many forget the all-important succession plan.


Read more...

Much ado about data-driven organizations, for good reason

Contributed Blogs
Monday, April 13, 2015
bigdatathumbBY GRANT KIRBY | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

The mega-shift from technology-driven to data-driven organizations raises questions about Oregon’s workforce preparedness.


Read more...

10 Oregon companies positioning themselves for growth

The Latest
Friday, March 13, 2015
vcthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Ten startups have secured venture capital, angel or seed funding in 2015.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS