EcoDog’s Home Energy Monitoring Product Sniffs Out Energy Savings
Fido just might be a homeowner’s new best friend. The watchdog in question isn’t a vigilant Doberman or German Shepard, but rather the flagship product of EcoDog, a home energy-monitoring start-up based in Vista, CA. The device connects to a home circuit breaker and delivers real-time information on the home’s energy usage.
One nifty aspect of the technology is that Fido does not use an internet data or wireless technology to transmit the data to your home computer. Instead, once Fido is installed, it automatically uses your home’s electrical wiring to send data. Fido delivers a detailed report on the electricity usage of the house, room by room, appliance by appliance.
Founder and CEO Ron Pitt, a software engineer by training, used to work in the alternative energy industry. But he became increasingly frustrated with the impracticality of solar and wind-generated power for the average homeowner. He thought there was an overemphasis on “how to generate one more kilowatt per hour.” Instead, Pitt decided that focusing on energy management “can make a much greater impact than any number of solar panels you put on roofs.”
This philosophy has translated into EcoDog’s marketing, which touts how Fido can save homeowners money by offering complete transparency of their utility costs. “Environmentally green is good, but money green is better,” says Pitt. “People want to do the right thing, but unless you make it financially advantageous to them, it’s never going to gain wide acceptance. Solar is not a compelling financial model.” It just so happens that by bringing down their electricity costs, homeowners simultaneously streamline their energy usage.
Other methods of measuring home energy consumption, Pitt says, are based on canned questionnaires, which offer little insight into the specific details of an individual residence’s electricity costs. “The beauty of Fido is that it is able to take actual usage data from your home, as well as the projected rate from the utility company, to deliver a report tailored to you.” A homeowner may find out that certain inefficient appliances are responsible for the bulk of the utility bill. Pitt cites one homeowner in the pilot program who discovered that a single dehumidifier in a storage room was responsible for $90 a month in electricity.
“The point of the system is to measure where the problem areas are,” he says. “You don’t have to guess.”
EcoDog has come a long way since 2005, when Pitt sodered his first energy monitoring device in his garage, and the startup is now looking to grow. Fido graduated from beta testing in 2008 and is in a limited release pilot program this year. The company is seeking $5.2 million in angel funding to support its continued efforts to commercialize Fido on a broad scale. As we reported last month, Tom Page, former chairman and CEO of San Diego Gas & Electric and its corporate parent Enova (now Sempra Energy), became EcoDog’s first angel, although the amount of his investment was not disclosed.
Pitt says Fido occupies a particular niche, one that large industrial energy management devices are not suited for. Eventually, Fido also could have small-scale commercial applications in “mom and pop” type shops. But for now, EcoDog is focusing on the residential market. They’re targeting contractors and home construction companies, especially those specializing in “green remodeling”.
“We’re the poster child for a classic startup model,” says Pitt. Despite the tough climate for venture funding, he’s confident that EcoDog can soar on the wings of angel investors. In the current economy, Pitt says it doesn’t hurt when”you mention that you can save fifteen, twenty percent on your utility bill, and people’s ears perk up immediately.”
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