Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

IoT home automation could cut energy use 10%

William Payne
June 2, 2016
 
Increasing use of home automation technology through the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential for substantial energy savings and greenhouse gas emissions reductions according to a new study by the US Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

The study “The Energy Savings Potential of Home Automation Technology” claims that widespread adoption of home automation products such as temperature, circuit and lighting control, if used for energy savings purposes, could collectively avoid up to 100 million tons of CO2 emissions and reduce total residential primary energy consumption by as much as 10 percent. It would amount to a saving more than consumer electronics’ share of residential primary energy consumption (8.4 percent) according to a separate CTA study, “Energy Consumption of Consumer Electronics in U.S. Homes in 2013”.

“This research proves the innovation consumer technology delivers into our hands and homes through the Internet of Things can significantly reduce our carbon footprint – whether that’s the household energy we use on our own or the carbon emissions our country produces,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Technology Association. “With the touch of a screen or button, we can control and manage our homes more easily and effectively than ever – from virtually anywhere in the world – and enjoy all the cost savings and environmental benefits consumer technology offers.”

The CTA’s study reports the overall U.S. technical energy savings potential from several individual approaches ranges from 0.3 to 1.1 quadrillion BTUs (quads) of primary energy consumption, or from one to five percent of total residential primary energy consumption.

The study’s findings, which represent the best current estimates of achievable savings, highlight several areas where home automation could deliver energy savings, including connected thermostats, HVAC zoning, and control of window shades, circuits and lighting.

“This study is the first of its kind – showing how our increased use of several types of connected devices and systems can decrease our overall home energy use,” said Douglas Johnson, vice president of technology policy, CTA. “While the concept and practice of home automation have been around for decades, the continuous reduction of installation costs means more and more consumers are able to access and benefit from this technology. And home automation tech delivers potential benefits to utilities as well, such as enhanced demand response capabilities and the intelligent segmentation of homes – both of which would eventually lower consumers’ costs.”

Actual energy savings depends strongly on how users choose to control their automated household devices and equipment, the study found. Intelligent features, when activated, can enable greater savings. Smart thermostats, for instance, can learn when specific rooms in a home do and do not need conditioning to save energy without sacrificing comfort. Savings could be even higher when automated devices are used together, as with whole-home control.

Sales of many home automation technologies are projected to rise over the next few years, according to CTA’s U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts. Consumer trends have shown that the primary motivator behind purchasing automation products, such as smart blinds, thermostats and light fixtures, has been for convenience, security and/or entertainment. The study found that further increasing the marketability of these products to homeowners by promoting their energy savings potential could lead to more energy savings nationwide.

The study was conducted by the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems CSE, Boston Massachusetts, and commissioned by CTA. Fraunhofer CSE identified 17 candidate home automation approaches and selected five to study in depth, based on initial energy savings estimates and feedback from members of CTA’s TechHome Division, energy efficiency program administrators and developers. The findings recommended pursuing targeted field studies of sufficient scale to refine these energy savings estimates, especially for approaches whose savings depend more strongly on occupant behavior. The entire study, The Energy Savings Potential of Home Automation Technology, is available online.