Sponsored by Oregon Business

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

Meeting Facilities Perspective

March 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

A conversation with Donna Earley, director of sales and marketing for the Salem Convention Center.


Read more...

Car Talk

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Everyone knows cell phones and driving are a lethal combination. The risk is especially high for teenage drivers, whose delusions of immortality pose such a threat to us all. Enforcement alas, remains feeble; more promising are pedagogical approaches aimed at getting people to focus on the road, not their devices.


Read more...

Power Players

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY ROBERT MULLIN

A new energy-sharing agreement sparks concerns about independence and collaboration in the region's utility industry.


Read more...

Finding a Balance

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, January 29, 2015
012915-passinvst-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST BLOGGER

Active vs. passive investing: what you need to know.


Read more...

2015 100 Best companies announced

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 0022cneditBY OB STAFF

The 100 Best list recognizes large, medium and small companies for excellence in work environment, management and communications, decision-making and trust, career development and learning, and benefits and compensation.


Read more...

Banking Perspective

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Craig Wanichek, president and CEO of Summit Bank.


Read more...

The Road to Reinvention

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Damian Smith bets on changing himself — and Portland — through consulting.


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