In the world of home energy conservation, the Nest thermostat has been the industry darling. Known for learning usage behaviour and turning on a home’s HVAC system smartly, it helps conserve energy by turning off the system when there is nobody home, encouraging more energy-saving temperature settings and remote turn off. The drawback: the Nest costs $250, requires permanent installation and controls only one energy-using system in the home.
Enter the Neurio, a device that its creators claim connects into the home electric panel so simply that users can set it up themselves (albeit requiring some DIY electrical skills.) It also allows them to disconnect it fairly easily, which, unlike many other smart devices, make it a good investment for for renters. It is then able to monitor all electricity usage in the home. There is a need to identify appliances in the app because it can only discern electricity usage patters, not what type of appliance working. For example, to identify the dryer, the user would turn the dryer on and supposedly the Neurio would identify the additional electricity use and from then on, be able to connect that surge with the dryer.
The Neurio is set up to monitor all electricity usage and all electric appliances in the home and find trouble spots. In the Wired article, Ali Kashani, the CTO of Neurio, discovered a broken heater in his apartment that was using too much electricity for too little heat and a stereo system that was using electricity even when turned off. He was able to reduce his electricity bill by 50%.
Like the Nest, by learning usage patterns it can alert users when something is out of the ordinary. It can also identify when certain appliances are on, such as the dryer, oven and even if the garage door is open.This is especially useful when users are not at home and have the nagging feeling that they forgot something turned on.
Unlike the Nest, however, it doesn’t enable remote control of appliances. Even just turning off appliances remotely can have a big impact on one’s energy usage. This, Mr Kashani says, is in Neurio’s future.
It would be interesting if Neurio could go beyond identifying electricity hogs and compare usage patterns across different households and appliances (anonymously of course.) In addition to just identifying their appliances with a generic name (eg “Dryer”) users could add make, model and year of manufacture to the identity. Neurio can identify those appliances that may be using more electricity than equivalent, more energy-efficient appliances on the market and even recommend a better model based on overall usage statistics.
Finally, the price. At $250 Neurio may still be too expensive for users but at some point, like many of the smarter home devices, Neurio might become more affordable, thus reducing energy usage for entire communities. That said, I wonder if states and utility companies could benefit by subsidizing the Neurio. It could be good investment all around.
PS I did want to try out the app for this review, just to see what functions it offers, but logging into the app requires an account and setting up an account requires an installation code which I assume comes with the device. Ah, well.