9 Smart Home Startups Reducing Your Utility Bills
Many of today’s technologies are disruptive in a first-world sort of way. Take as an example all the food delivery startups. Sure, they’re disruptive in so far as they’re creating all kinds of low-paying delivery jobs and creating new revenues streams for restaurants, but they’re hardly worth a second look when compared to truly disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, gene editing, or weed delivery. All these “business models of convenience” will be the first to disappear when people no longer have the jobs needed to pay for such luxuries.
It’s in a similar way that we usually view the idea of smart homes. Sure, it’s cool that you can look at your smartphone and see who is at the door, but it’s much cooler if a smartphone helps us conserve energy. Nothing gets our MBAs worked up more than the idea of saving money and the planet simultaneously. This led us to the below-market map put together by the perspicacious minds over at CB Insights:
Let’s take a look at the nine startups in the above market map listed under the “energy and utilities” segment.
Keep Cool and Carry On
Founded in 2011, German startup Tado has taken in $56.2 million so far from investors that include Siemens to develop a smart thermostat and AC controls that automatically adjust based on resident behavior and building characteristics in real-time, even taking into account weather forecasts. The smartphone app also includes a “geofencing” feature that knows if the resident has already left the house or returning to adjust the temperature accordingly. Tado’s smart thermostat can also connect to a boiler’s digital serial interface which enables it to modulate heating and modulate a house’s heating system remotely, sending diagnostics to a maintenance company or engineer. Just last month, Tado rolled out a few updates that allow their smart thermostat to detect if a window is open and automatically adjusts the temperature to save more energy. Speaking of which, the Tado device is said to save you loads of money:
It’s just a small piece of hardware that you place in proximity of the AC unit so the two can communicate using infrared (it’s pretty much the same way your remote control works). You can pick one up on Amazon right now for about $175.
Saving Money is a Breeze
Staying on the theme of cooling your house while spending less money, our next company is just like Tado (startups love it when you say that they’re just like their competitor). Just kidding, they’re totally different. Founded in 2014, startup Cielo has taken in an unknown amount of funding so far and hails from the land of Microsoft, Redmond Washington. The company’s hardware product, Breez, can make any air conditioner smart provided that it is controlled using an infrared remote control. Simply hang it on a wall or place it a table within an AC/heat pump’s line of sight and it directly connects to the home’s WiFi to control air conditioning through IR signals (it’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant):
It’s also capable of weekly scheduling, checking the air filter status, geofencing triggers and usage statistics. Most importantly, it can help you save up to 25% on your energy bills. This handy piece of kit is available on Amazon for the bargain price of just $109.
Watering Your McMansion
Founded in 2012, Rachio is a Denver Colorado-based startup that has taken in $10.5 million so far in 7 rounds of funding from investors that include Amazon to create a smart irrigation controller powered by their cloud-based software, and controlled by a web dashboard or even paired with a smartphone app. The controller, called Iro, allows you to customize when your sprinklers turn on from anywhere in the world. While you’re over on an African safari interacting with people who walk 20 miles a day for freshwater, you can make sure you’re spraying ishtloads of it all over your luscious lawn back home. For people who are too busy to keep their lawn alive, Iro automatically adjusts irrigation schedules taking into account water efficiency, landscape health, weather, seasonality, and landscape characteristics:
Rachio can reportedly help homeowners save up to 50% off their monthly water bill by constant weather monitoring and automatically adjusting irrigation schedules for a more precise watering cycle. The company’s smart sprinkler controller can manage up to 16 zones, compatible with almost every home sprinkler system. With the more recent integrations, Radicchio continues to live up to its position as the most connected smart sprinkler controller on the market. You can pick up one of their devices on Amazon today for about $180.
No More Leakage
Speaking of saving water, our next startup focuses on accidental water spillage. Founded in 2015, Los Angeles based startup Flo Technologies has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding to develop their water monitoring and control system to control and preserve water by tracking leaks to avoid property damage and eliminate flooding. Currently in beta phase, their hardware product is the only solution to be able to detect “micro leaks” without the use of moisture sensors or retrofitting. As the Flo device is attached mainly to the user’s main water supply, it can proactively detect leaks and send a notification to your smartphone. There is also an important water conservation element to this technology as well since if you don’t have water you’ll fcuking die. If that’s sparked your interest in learning more about AquaTech, be sure to check out our recent article on 7 Water Tech Startups Helping Keep You Alive.
Because it Makes Sense
Founded in 2013, Cambridge, Massachusetts based startup Sense Labs has taken in $34 million in 4 rounds of funding to upgrade the home energy monitoring system by attempting to identify every electrical device in your home and monitor its energy usage by detecting unique electronic signatures from electrical devices. Their device relies on two sensors attached to service mains in your breaker panel. The technology is quite clever and uses machine learning algorithms to identify the type of electrical device. Did you know that toasters use less energy after they’ve heated up? That’s the sort of thing that you can train an algorithm to spot. Here’s a look at the hardware (smartphone not included):
The company’s device has been recently updated to integrate with “smart home” devices such as remote-controlled lights and software-enabled appliances. Sense’s software allows you to track and compare each appliance’s energy usage, even the lights. It’s available on Amazon right now for the low price of $299.
Update 07/29/2019: Sense has raised $10 million in new Series B funding to help accelerate its market growth. This brings the company’s total funding to $48 million to date.
Smart Cast Iron Radiators
Founded in 2011, Brooklyn, New York-based startup Radiator Labs has taken in $3.17 million to develop a really clever energy product that converts old cast iron radiators into precision heaters that are low-cost and easy-to-install as they simply attach to existing radiators. Sold directly to both consumers and building owners, the company’s product called “The Cozy” allows for switching convective heat transfer on and off without having the need for a plumber. It offers a system capable of redistributing steam flow transferring wasted heat from overheated rooms to colder rooms, claiming to help save 40% in heating costs annually:
Alternatively, the Cozy’s app can also be used to manually control temperatures as needed from that smartphone that’s glued to your face 79% of the time.
Same Same but Different
Founded in 2007, Canadian startup ecobee has taken in $51.1 million in 4 rounds of funding so far from investors that include the great Amazon to develop smart thermostats that allow you to control the temperatures of your various rooms using your smartphone. Apart from the main product, ecobee also offers additional sensors for different parts of a room or entirely different rooms to avoid uneven home heating. The company’s smart thermostats can also learn heating and cooling patterns to help save more energy at home. If you’re familiar at all with Google’s smart thermostat, Nest, then the obvious next question will be how these two devices compare. There are dozens of articles out there that espouse the merits of all the smart thermostats on offer out there, so we’ll just provide you with an affiliate link for all of them at various price points hoping you buy one:
If you do click that picture or this link and then buy something, Amazon will give us some pennies so we can cobble together a few meals to feed our team of hungry MBAs. You know what to do.
Equality of Temperatures
Founded in 2012, Boston startup Ecovent Systems has taken in $10 million in 5 rounds of funding so far to develop the “ultimate climate control system for the home”. Essentially there are people in this world who have houses that are so big they may actually never go in certain rooms for months. Why spend money heating these monstrosities when you don’t actually inhabit the entire dwelling? The problem is typically addressed with traditional home zoning systems that offer room-by-room temperature control and save energy by automatically analyzing room airflow. The Ecovent solution costs a fraction of the price and can be installed in a single day:
As you would expect, all monitoring, tracking, and control can be done from their smartphone app that shows each room’s temperature and allows you to set up personalized schedules so that you can make sure your servants aren’t consuming too much of your expensive hot air. Typical homes save 15%, but the average is closer to 25%.
Tankless Water Heaters
If you’ve traveled in any country where people have genuine things to worry about, like where their next meal is coming from, you may have come across a suicide shower. It’s an alternative to those big luxurious hot water tanks found in most American homes. Our next startup has a solution for hot water that falls in between these two extremes. Founded in 2006, South Carolina startup Heatworks Technologies has taken in $7.2 million in funding from investors that include Microsoft to develop the best tankless electric water heater on the market. The company’s product uses their patented Ohmic Array Technology to heat water as opposed to traditional heating elements that scale and rust over time.
Their latest offering, the MODEL 3, uses graphite electrodes to heat water which excites naturally occurring minerals in the water to produce heat as a byproduct. Their Wi-Fi enabled app also offers insights to a user’s water and energy usage and allow for control on making temperature preferences.
Now you know of at least a few ways that you can save on the necessary evil of utility bills. Go sort yourself out.
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