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

Fueling Up for the Climb

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY GREGG MORRIS

Rita Hansen aims to scale natural gas vehicle innovation.


Read more...

Apartment Mania

Guest Blog
Thursday, June 18, 2015
4805983977 11466ce1d6 zBY BRAD HOULE | CFA

While most categories of commercial real estate have performed well, one of the most robust has been apartment buildings.


Read more...

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

The Backstory: Portland Youth Builders

The Latest
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
blog002 1BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

As part of our green workplaces story, Oregon Business checked out a community service project undertaken by Portland Youth Builders, a nonprofit alternative high school. In partnership with Whole Foods, PYB built garden boxes for a Home Forward  housing site. Home Forward is a government agency that provides housing for low income residents and people with disabilities.


Read more...

Reader Input: Road Work

March 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oregon's roads are crumbling, and revenues from state and local gas taxes are not sufficient to pay for improvements. We asked readers if the private sector should help fund transportation maintenance and repairs. Research partner CFM Strategic Communications conducted the poll of 366 readers in February.

0315 input01 620px

 

Reader comments:

"I feel private enterprises are capable of operating at a higher efficiency than state government."

"This has been used in Oregon since the mid-1800s. It is not a new financing method. This form of financing may help Oregon close its infrastructure deficit by leveraging funds."


Read more...

Reader Input: Energy Overload

June 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers to weigh in on the fossil fuel-green energy equation.


Read more...

Greenpeace prevents Shell oil ship from leaving Portland

The Latest
Thursday, July 30, 2015
hangersBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Activists have suspended themselves from the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, slowing an icebreaker's departure for the Arctic.


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