Schneider Electric recently entered into the thinking thermostat market, with the release of Wiser Air, a demand-response friendly device meant to increase interaction between utilities and its customers.
Announced at DistribuTech 2015 in San Diego, Wiser Air adds to the fast-growing list of products in the smart home market, which has also attracted players like Google, Apple and Samsung. The energy management side of that market, alone, is growing by 25 percent annually and is expected to reach $1.9 billion by 2019, up from $393.8 million in 2012, according to Transparency Market Research.
The newest smart thermostats offer energy management well beyond that of their ancestor, the programmable thermostat. Wiser Air, for example, is designed to make it easy for homeowners and small businesses to participate in demand response events and interact with their utility in real-time. It is part of Schneider’s larger Wiser home energy management portfolio.
Schneider has been talking up the thermostat for several months, with an eye toward catching the attention of utilities and builders who may offer it to their customers. Utilities and grid operators for years have argued that it is necessary to reduce peak use by consumers — especially on hottest and coldest days — to ease the cost of operating the U.S. power system.
“Residential energy use is the key contributor to peak load situations. Consumers have indicated their willingness to participate in programs that help these peaking problems, and are even starting to demand tools and engagement from their utilities which afford them more control and convenience,” said Yann Kulp, vice president of residential energy solutions, Schneider Electric. “Wiser Air gives utility customers the tools to make minor lifestyle adjustments that collectively produce a major impact on grid operations.”
Like Nest, Schneider is emphasizing the thermostat’s aesthetics and intuitive design and capabilities. The Wiser Air is “sleek and easy-to-use“ and offers a “consistent, user-friendly experience across devices,” the company said. Wiser Air senses household behavior and adjusts accordingly, another Nest-like feature.
Other key features described by Schneider are:
Engaging Consumer Interface – Elegant and simple device built with a smartphone-style touch screen display, designed to be easy to use. Integrated for web and mobile, consumers can access energy efficient HVAC optimization options, customized energy efficiency tips and bill/usage analysis and tracking, all at the touch of a screen across their connected devices. This allows homeowners to control their homes from anywhere, anytime. The Wiser Air thermostat is embedded with ZigBee & Wi-Fi communication; it is easily installed and presents a striking and engaging design; and Wiser Air is OpenADR ready.
Smart Sensors and Accurate Weather Forecasting and Alerts: Wiser Air automatically kicks into active mode when a person is nearby through sensors, while also responding to temperature, light and humidity. It senses when homeowners are away, shifting to a more efficient mode. With the Wiser Forecast feature, Wiser Air also incorporates Schneider Electric’s award-winning Weather Solutions, already used by hundreds of utilities, to provide accurate forecasts and alerts, and provide consumers with key information to increase home comfort and energy efficiency. Ultimately these features enable utilities to engage customers with information they can use to make wiser choices regarding energy use while maintaining comfort.
Greater Control and Customization for Homeowners: Leveraging powerful algorithms, Wiser Air lets homeowners set rules for their home that help keep everything in check. The Simple Schedule and Ready Modes enable homeowners to tweak their energy schedule to their exact personal settings with just one touch and enable flexible scheduling and automatic programming that works with their lives. Meanwhile, Wiser Air’s Comfort Boost feature enables homeowners to adjust temperature for a quick impact without changing the thermostat settings, so that comfort and efficiency are both maintained.
Easily Verified Savings – Wiser Air provides straightforward energy usage information that homeowners can use – they can even see how their home’s energy usage compares to their neighbors’. Not only can consumers see their savings, but utilities can verify energy efficiency savings and demand response participation for compliance reporting.