APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Technology to be used: The modlet is a smart, patent-pending electricity conservation solution that brings unprecedented energy-efficiency intelligence to the electric wall outlet. By modernizing electric outlets at home or in the office, modlet users can be assured that unnecessary electricity will never be wasted on appliances and gadgets again. To get started, users simply plug the modlet hardware into existing wall outlets and plug appliances into it. Then the user's web browser guides and manages their savings online, so set up is quick, hassle-free, and intuitive. The modlet web application recommends savings schedules to users and keeps track of actual savings in dollars and energy use, so users can automate their savings experience. In addition, the power consumption data can be aggregated across multiple users.
-Deploy modlets in different environments (homes, offices, schools). A range of plug loads will be targeted for monitoring consumption through different real-life conditions - e.g. active use, idle on, off, device warnings, etc. The goal is to get a wide variety of settings and devices so that the educational insights will apply to a wide audience base.
-Aggregate data by appliance type to draw insights on what drives power consumption. This phase will take about 3 months, as it is difficult to draw meaningful insights without a decent data sampling. The data that will be collected during this phase are time-stamped power consumption traces in watts, by appliance.
-Use the insights to formulate easy-to-follow energy-saving advice for consumers and businesses. Appliances vary greatly in how much power they consume (a) when they are actively being used, (b) when they are sitting idly, (c) when they operate under different modes of operation, and (d) how often they are used. Consumers and businesses can use the information provided by ThinkEco, personalize it to their situation and conserve when they use existing appliances or purchase new ones.
-Disseminate this information to consumers and businesses. Because each appliance is different in its power consumption behavior, and each user is different in how actively they use their appliances, much of the education will be best served in a searchable online format where users can apply their filters. This means that media mentions to drive consumers to the searchable site will be critical for widespread use. In addition, because the aggregated information will also provide general energy efficiency insights, a part of the education dissemination will include white papers and development of school materials.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
1. Deploy modlets in different environments (homes, offices, schools) and monitor power consumption.
-Timeline: Businesses and schools will be monitored first with a roll out in the fourth quarter of 2010, followed by consumers in the first quarter of 2011.
-Deliverable: The deliverable for this phase is a list of test sites and appliances to be monitored.
2. Aggregate data by appliance type to draw insights on what drives power consumption.
- Timeline: As discussed earlier, this phase will take about 3 months, as it is difficult to draw meaningful insights without a decent data sampling. For businesses and schools, monitoring and data aggregation will be completed by end of the first quarter in 2011. For consumers, the same will be done by end of the second quarter in 2011.
- Deliverable: The deliverable from this phase will be limited to a topline summary of the raw data, much of the synthesis will be conducted in the third phase to follow.
3. Use the insights to formulate easy-to-follow energy-saving advice for consumers and businesses.
- Timeline: From the point of collecting the data, it will take one to three months to analyze and write up the main findings. As a result, it is expected that the insights will be completed by end of the third quarter in 2011, covering both business and consumer appliances.
- Deliverable: A database will be populated with searchable appliance data. Content in this database will be rolled out on an ongoing basis, as the sampling becomes adequately large.
4. Disseminate this information to consumers and businesses.
- Timeline: Educational dissemination is expected to take place on a rolling basis, from early in the third quarter of 2011, through end of the fourth quarter in 2011.
- Deliverable: The ultimate deliverables here include a searchable website containing appliance data and educational tips, white papers written by ThinkEco's Director of Sustainability, and the development of educational materials for use in K-12 curricula.
Plug-loads (i.e., plugged-in appliances) are a large and growing problem. They now represent 40 % of residential and 26 % of commercial energy use, up from the single digits in the early 1990s (US data from the Department of Energy). This is due to the fact that people have more gadgets in their homes and offices today, and each device draws more power than ever before. To make matters worse, many modern day devices draw power even when people are not using them (when they are in standby mode), resulting in a growing pool of wasted electricity. It is estimated that plug-load standby power costs each year in utility bills (Department of Energy). Within the broader context of climate change and energy supply issues, the growing and wasteful use of power by plugged-in appliances is a major concern.
There are two major challenges associated with trying to effectively reduce this wasted pool of electricity. First, plug-loads tend to be distributed throughout a site, so manually unplugging them or using a switch power strip becomes quite cumbersome and impractical. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is the issue that it is impossible to tell from the outside how much power each device is consuming; if people do not know which devices are the worst power wasters, they will not take the appropriate actions to maximize savings.
ThinkEco's modlet technology overcomes this challenge in two important ways. The modlet is a hardware and software conservation tool that intelligently monitors power consumption of whatever appliance is plugged into it, and recommends auto-savings schedules to the user so that power can be cut off at the source when it is not needed. In this way, the modlet automatically reduces the wasteful use of power by appliances, with no quality of life impact on the user. That is, the modlet is an effective technology-driven solution to the plug-load problem.
Even for those who are not using a modlet, the aggregate data collected from the modlets can serve as an educational tool so that users can be informed of what devices are the worst power wasters, and how to effectively eliminate that waste. ThinkEco pilot studies have shown that when people are empowered with information on how appliances draw power, they more proactively and effectively manage energy consumption in general.