Friday, December 14, 2012

Nest learning thermostats now saving a whole lot of energy

Katie Fehrenbacher


Nest’s learning thermostats have collectively saved over 200 million kilowatt hours of energy since they were launched back in October 2011, says the startup. That’s about the equivalent amount of energy to power the Empire State building for four years, and which Nest says is a figure that blew their minds when they calculated it.

It’s unclear how many Nest thermostats there are out there, but a few months ago Nest said it had sold in the “hundreds of thousands” of units. But the reason Nest’s collective energy savings are so high after just a year, even with its initial sales volumes, is because the thermostats can save 20 to 30 percent in a home’s energy consumption. Per home, that’s a really high figure.

In comparison software energy leader Opower, which processes data from more than 50 million homes, says it’s saved over 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy, or enough energy to power the Empire State Building for more than 33 years. But Opower saves much smaller energy percentages per home — or on average about 1.5 to 3.5 percent reduction on an energy bill.

That’s why Nest is smaller and newer than Opower, but is still managing to wrack up the energy savings, too. It would be awesome if companies got really competitive over how much collective energy savings they could deliver — energy savings FTW!

Opower is looking to boost its per home energy savings. Paper reports, mailed to the utility customer, still play a substantial role in its service — of the 15 million homes that are fully connected into the Opower platform, 7 million of those are getting paper reports. Opower has newer products including a Facebook app and a smart thermostat service with Honeywell, which could make that savings number rise.

If you’ve forgotten Honeywell hit Nest with a lawsuit earlier this year. So Honeywell’s connection with Opower, is kindof like its technology answer to Nest. Maybe these two venture-backed energy startups are becoming a little more competitive, albeit from different angles. Opower sells its software service to utilities, while Nest sells its thermostats straight to consumers.

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