5 Start-ups Keeping Home-Cooling Costs Low
Temperatures across the country soared well into the 90s last week. Some spiked into triple digits (those of us in New York City sweated through 101 degrees).
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average monthly electric bill was $111 in 2010. Maryland was highest, at $154 per month. Suprisingly, New Mexico had the lowest average bill $64. In the summer, those averages can skyrocket.
While most of the country was blasting their air conditioners and holding their breath for the electric bill, a small segment of early adopters have figured out ways to reduce their energy output--and their energy bills. Here's a look at a few "smart grid" start-ups tackling the energy problem with tech.
Essess is part Google Street View, part heat map. The company, founded in 2011, collects thermal imaging information from buildings and homes. The company's software then analyzes that information, determines the building’s efficiency performance, and then "synthesizes the analysis into easy to understand metrics and scores, and automatically generates simple, 'plain English' reports." Thermal energy scans are performed both in winter and summer to determine which windows, doors, and building seams leak the most energy. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the company raised $6 million in April 2012 from Vocap Ventures and DFJ Athena.
One of the more mature start-ups in the green tech space is Tendril, a Boulder, Colorado-based firm that sells software to energy providers, which, in turn, allows customers to manage their home's energy use more efficiently. The company has even opened up its own API to developers, in order to create more third-party apps that will allow consumers to have better control over their home's energy use. The company is venture backed by VantagePoint Capital Partners, Siemens Venture Capital, Good Energies, RRE Ventures, and GE. In May 2012, the company raised a $25 million Series E round of funding, bringing its total amount raised to $96.2 million.
Smart Grid Billing
One of the major problems in energy consumption are the peak hours of usage--everyone turning their air conditioners on when they return home, for example. Smart Grid Billing, a start-up founded in 2009 that recently graduated from the Greenstart incubator program in San Francisco, allows customers to reduce their energy consumption during peak hours in exchange for discounts on their utility bills. "The biggest problem is the peak energy demand. If you look at a day and how the demand of energy looks like, it peaks around 5 to 6 p.m.," Henrik Westergaard, CEO and co-founder of Smart Grid, told Vator News. "The utilities have power plants that are idle around midnight. There's a lot of wasted energy. If we can utilize the energy by shifting the energy around, we save a lot of energy." According to GigaOm, the company is currently looking to raise $500,000.
AlertMe tackles the energy consumption problem with a nifty piece of hardware. For about $80, the company sells a "SmartMeter Reader," a device that attaches to your home's electricity meter. The reader then then "wirelessly and securely connects to a SmartHub--allowing you to view information about your energy use anytime, anywhere." Founded in 2006, the UK-based start-up has partnerships with British Gas in the UK and Lowe's in the USA. The company raised $23 million in its latest round of funding.
Founded in 2007 in Arlington, Virginia, by Dan Yates and Alex Laskey, Opower partners with utility providers to promote energy efficiency with software. The company became known for its use of the Home Energy Report, which provided users with of an analysis of how the efficiency of a person's home. "Think of it as a more interesting incarnation of your gas or electric bill," the company notes. About four million customers have used the reports, while 70 utilities use the service. About 10 million homes have implemented Opower. The company has raised more than $65 million in funding. Its most recent round was led by Accel Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in November 2010 for $50 million.