Home Energy Management Systems – a smart way to save?

Views:335     Author:Site Editor     Publish Time: 2019-12-17      Origin:Site

Knowing what solar system is best for you and your home comes down to a multitude of factors, examples being; your energy consumption, when and how you consume energy, your energy provider and their rates and even where you live. Due to these many factors, it can be hard to fully understand what solar system is best for you. To fully understand your energy consumption and how best to control it, an option to consider could be home energy management systems. 

Home Energy Management Systems

How does a home energy management system work?

A HEMS tracks and records the flows of electricity in the home using hardware installed in the property and software connected via the internet. Users connect and interact with it via an online dashboard (or interface) or through an app.

Home energy monitoring systems range from simple plug-in devices that can measure and control an appliance's electricity use at the powerpoint (costing upwards of $20), to sophisticated systems that manage and integrate your home's energy use in line with the fluctuating price of electricity in the market and predicted weather conditions. (Don't confuse them with smart meters which measure and send information about your energy consumption back to your electricity provider.)

According to Nigel Morris, business development director with energy technology company Solar Analytics, households with large loads and solar PV have more opportunities for manipulating their energy use, but all households can benefit from more information. He says, "The number one benefit is that what was once invisible becomes visible."

HEMS are comprised of two main components:

Hardware – usually includes a mechanism that is attached to an electrical board that acts as a link between the user and the devices and appliances connected in the home and in some cases the utility retailer. The other option is having a virtual device that is set up through a wireless network. 

Software – this is what moderates and communicates all the information and data of the connected devices and appliances. The software’s two main functions are to monitor and control energy consumption. The software’s interface is how the user can monitor and control their system, this being achieved through an app or web portal. 

Monitoring: different systems allow different monitoring capabilities, but what most monitoring systems allow is for the user to receive feedback on how their energy is being used or generated. You’ll receive information on past and present energy use; some will even show you your usage trends. Many systems will allow you to see what appliances are on/off and even individual consumption rates for each appliance. Depending on the device you might be able to monitor your home, solar and battery consumption all on the same system. 

Control: allows users to manage their systems remotely via an app or if preferred, through a time schedule system where the appliances will be set up to run during specific hours. Similarly to the monitoring section, control functions are based on the HEMS device capabilities and may allow users to set appliances and devices to run at specific times, set appliances and devices to run during certain situations – like when temperatures reach a certain degree, the ability to manage and optimize the usage of energy from solar, batteries or generators or the more the simple function, enable the user to turn devices on and off. 

Why use a Home Energy Management System? 

Home energy management systems are a great way to reduce your energy consumption and therefore your energy bill. For this to occur users will have to know when off-peak and shoulder usage rates are to get the most out of their systems and this requires research and time. 

Benefits of HEMS: 

● If monitored and controlled correctly, long-term savings can be achieved through energy consumption optimization, by managing the HEMS device’s delivered results and the resulting feedback 

● Scheduling time-based appliance operations to coincide with off-peak and time-of-use energy consumption 

● Peace of mind as users are able to monitor and control their homes energy consumption externally 

● The ability to work alongside solar and battery systems to further optimize energy consumption, allowing the user to remotely control when devices and appliances are switched on to consume the solar/battery energy 

Cons of HEMS: 

● Systems are still quite expensive, especially the installation costs and advanced smart home systems 

● HEMS require continuous management and monitoring to gain the most benefit which is time-consuming and also requires dedication 

● Concerns for the security of the home as monitoring and control of the device is done through an online portal and therefore the potential for the system to be infiltrated 

● Solar integration

● A HEMS can help households with solar PV systems save additional money by programming their system to run certain appliances when the sun is shining.

For example, excess solar energy could be directed to power an electric hot water system, effectively storing that solar power.

According to Foskett, "Our customers can save up to 30% on utility bills by ensuring that their home's appliances are utilized in the most intelligent, efficient way possible when combined with PV solar, thus increasing the ROI of the system."

And if you're in the market for solar or batteries, he says, "The insights will help you size up a system that is suited to your needs and budget, after helping eliminate inefficiencies in the home."

Is a HEMS the same as a home automation system?

HEMS focuses on managing electricity use to reduce costs and emissions. They aren't the same as home automation systems that manage the lighting, appliances, entertainment systems, climate and security of a home to increase convenience, comfort, and security.

● However, a HEMS can play a role when integrated with a home automation system to maximize energy savings and efficiency. 

● Smart home technology might increase your energy consumption

● Adopting smart home technology such as home automation and energy management systems may not substantially reduce energy use in households that have little interest in adopting new technologies or cutting their energy use.

● A small, 10-home study into the use of smart home technology in the UK found that smart homes require residents to adapt to their use and that learning to use them can be time-consuming. The researchers concluded, "There is little evidence that smart home technologies will generate substantial energy savings and, indeed, there is a risk that they may generate forms of energy intensification."

● Many people choose smart home automation (as opposed to a HEMS) for comfort and lifestyle reasons so it's not a surprise that these technologies may actually increase the household energy use (especially where automation is used for pre-heating homes before residents arrive home).

Another study from RMIT published in August 2017 had similar findings when it explored the use of off-the-shelf smart home gadgets, such as connected light bulbs and smart plugs, which promise to cut power bills. Only a quarter of the 46 volunteer households in the study actually used the devices on an ongoing basis.

It found that complexity, lack of knowledge and difficulty of use were barriers to effective use of the devices.

Do you need a HEMS?

If you're considering investing in a home energy management system, be clear about the commitment and the outcomes you're seeking to ensure it's a wise investment.

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