Powerhouse Dynamics and the Prius of energy efficiency

Nature of Business Radio

Powerhouse Dynamics and the Prius of energy efficiency

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

For those of us who reside in New England, it's no secret that we are really cold for half of the year and swelteringly hot for a lot of it, too. (Okay, yes, we have a couple of comfortable months, in between.) And we constantly chafe at our monthly utility bills despite our efforts to keep costs down.

We simply resign ourselves to pay the bill and try better next month to keep our kilowatt-hours down. I, for instance, don a sweater or a down jacket in the winter months. Good times. The truth is that utility bills are quite nebulous and leave us feeling out of control over the situation. I say Power to the People.

And so does Powerhouse Dynamics. I spoke with CEO Martin Flusberg about his company, their eMonitor and how it works in both the commercial and residential space, and the effect it is having energy savings. Finally we have an affordable energy savings solution and the word is out.

martin flusbergPowerhouse Dynamics has been around since 2008. Martin joined the team in June 2009. What intrigued him about this company from the start was the level of granularity associated with the eMonitor. As he points out, "It's one thing to say I am using 3,000 kilowatt-hours of energy but much more powerful, for instance, to know where it is being used and what to do about it."

He was also intrigued by the fact that there was a large untapped market for this product. Large commercial operations already have products for energy management that tend to be very expensive. There was nothing out there, however, for smaller entities such as restaurants, retail stores, small health clinics, schools, and convenient stores and the like whose energy costs tend to be one-third higher per square foot.

Powerhouse started off in the residential market as they initially rolled out the product. Through this experience they were able to glean valuable information from consumers as they increased the eMonitor's functionality by adding remote control for thermostats and HVAC systems, as well as developing 3-phase power capability. Immediately consumers at both the residential and commercial levels were seeing 10-15 percent energy savings and in some cases 35 percent and higher.

So what do they do exactly? This will give you a general idea. Specifically these monitors go inside electric panel with sensors that clamp onto every circuit. The devices have a wireless radio that communicates to a centralized gateway that they install in the facility through direct Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection. It then uploads all of the data to the cloud where the troubleshooting and heavy lifting takes place.

Think of a freezer where defrost cycle kicks in every hour rather than once a day. Or driers that run all night that don't need to. The eMonitor identifies these anomalies and imminent changes can be made to reduce energy. As Martin points out, "In the case of restaurants, for instance, they have a lot of equipment and things go wrong all of the time. With the eMonitor you can spot problems before it becomes a real problem."

Everything with the eMonitor system is automated and customers can set up a whole series of customized alerts. For instance, it alerts the customer if the freezer door is open or has suddenly died. Or if you would simply prefer to have your AC turned down a notch.

The cost savings are the number one driver for customer interest in the eMonitor but what is also fantastic is that it is fun. There are benchmarking capabilities and be set up as a challenge for people to look at how they are doing compared to their peers. People certainly respond to competition and they love looking at the data.

Certainly, energy efficiency is not as tangible or as sexy as let's say wind or solar or the Chevy Volt. It is true, that is hard to get excited about because you don't really see it. Martin says, "We joke about our typical consumer has a Prius in the driveway and a hummer in the basement. The Prius is successful because it stood out."

Now, energy efficiency has its Prius with the eMonitor. And with only 10 percent of small commercial facilities currently utilizing any form of energy management, the road (HOV lane) is wide open.

George Papoulias edited this podcast.



Thermostat photo via Shutterstock.