EcoFactor, maker of software that turns programmable thermostats into smart, energy-efficient devices, has just launched its first commercial deployment in Dallas and Ft. Worth with Texan utility Oncor.
The startup’s service allows thermostats to modulate temperatures for comfort while simultaneously shaving energy demand and customers’ energy bills. After EcoFactor is installed, all homeowners have to do is adjust their thermostats as usual for several days. The software remembers what they like, in relation to seasons, weather conditions and square footage, so that they never have to worry about it again. EcoFactor’s software adjusts home temperature in real time as conditions change.
EcoFactor is one of several energy-efficiency offerings (eventually including Microsoft Hohm and Control4) that takes reducing energy consumption out of users’ hands. This is a tenet of the emerging smart grid and home efficiency industries: provide tools that automate energy use so customers literally have to do nothing on a regular basis to see savings.
Oncor is folding EcoFactor’s service into its Take a Load Off Texas program. It will allow the utility to run demand response programs — reducing demand when needed to avoid grid overloads — and allow customers to save as much as 20 to 30 percent on their heating and cooling costs, the company says.
It makes sense that EcoFactor is rolling out first in Texas. Utilities are not regulated in the state, meaning that homeowners are largely free to choose between several competing energy vendors. In order to retain customers, many of these utilities need to expand their portfolios to include extras like energy efficiency tools, energy monitoring dashboards made by companies like Tendril and OpenPeak, and more. Oncor partnered with EcoFactor early, launching a trial period with a handful of homes last November.
But EcoFactor doesn’t plan to depend on utility partnerships to grow. Because it is more consumer than utility-focused, the company says it will look for partnerships with telecommunications and cable companies who also want to offer energy-efficiency services to their customers. Both Verizon and AT&T have expressed interest in getting a slice of the smart grid and energy-efficiency pie.
Based in San Carlos, Calif., EcoFactor has raised close to $6 million from Claremont Creek Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, and angels. It last raised funds in April, bringing in $3.5 million. According to a recent report, capital-efficient energy-efficiency startups are becoming a sweet spot for investors interested in the cleantech sector.