Frances Huessy -
The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently granted VEIC a patent that gives utility efficiency programs a new tool for designing home weatherization programs with greater effectiveness.
The patented open-source software, STAT, helps utilities identify and prioritize energy savings opportunities for home performance projects, by directly observing patterns of heat gain and loss in a home. It also combines these observations with current and historical weather data. Because energy performance patterns in a home are closely related to outdoor temperatures, VEIC experts designed the system to relate home energy performance to current and historical weather data for precise analysis.
The software allows VEIC to observe trends in indoor temperature, relative to outdoor temperature. We can use the relationship between the two to characterize how well exterior walls (building envelope) are “performing.” Building envelope performance is the key to understanding how well a home keeps in heat on cold days and how well it optimizes cooling on hot days. The analyses, which target a particular time period, can look at the rates of change in indoor temperature—in the context of any influences the outdoor temperature might have. That information is highly useful for guiding decisions about energy efficiency measures that can improve a building’s energy performance.
With STAT in place, it will be easier for utilities to design appropriate energy efficiency initiatives. The patented system is also likely to boost participating utilities’ customer satisfaction ratings, and for good reason.
The patented software can be combined with data-logging devices (typically, homeowners’ smart thermostats)—to produce the analyses VEIC can provide. These will help utilities, energy markets, energy efficiency programs, and utility resource planners use weather-normalized home energy consumption information to improve energy use in homes.
A Smart Thermostat’s Clever Companion
Although smart thermostats have been proving their worth to consumers for several years, VEIC’s breakthrough technology offers a new service from smart thermostats. The combination of data from smart thermostats, weather stations, and VEIC’s models and algorithms tailored to the energy-saving opportunities of specific homes can provide more accurate information than can be obtained from smart thermostats alone. In this sense, it reduces the potential for missteps in the design and implementation of efficiency programs targeting home weatherization projects.
The title on the patent is System and Methods for Assessing Whole-Building Thermal Performance. The inventors are VEIC staff members Nick Lange, Ethan Goldman, and Jake Jurmain. These data and analysis experts recognized that data from connected in-home devices hold untapped potential to power dynamic energy efficiency tools and energy use practices. Our analyses can improve the outcomes of energy efficiency and demand response programs. The software is also a tool for facilitating pay-for-performance weatherization programs, because it can help efficiency program administrators target and track weatherization program effectiveness.
Good for Utilities, Good for Residential Customers
The patented system, which requires VEIC’s engagement for system analysis and maintenance, comprises the STAT toolkit. The system provides repeatable analyses and dynamic reporting via modular open-source software. Parties such as utilities that want to help customers control their energy use can prioritize the information that they want from the systems. VEIC, which knows and understands utilities’ needs, regional transmission organizations, and regulators, can then integrate and interpret these data for the utilities. This full-service approach, with customer support, will help utilities in their reporting and planning for energy demand and consumption.
STAT generates detailed home energy performance information. It is a good example of a method that can help optimize energy efficiency program investments. It is also a good demonstration of how responsible research and development can use subject matter experts and appropriate analytical methods to optimize the use of an efficiency program’s limited resources. STAT, for example, might eventually reduce the need for time- and labor-intensive methods such as blower door testing in accurately assessing a home’s energy performance.
As FAST-STAT begins to be applied in jurisdictions ranging from Vermont to California, VEIC will be able to assess its additional value in demand response, efficiency programs’ energy savings claims to regulators, and weatherization programs, and to assess its effects on a program’s engagement with customers and contractors.
- Pay-for-performance pilot
- Demand response impact assessments
- Energy savings analysis
- Weatherization & HVAC metrics
- “M&V 2.0” and dynamic feedback
- Customer & contractor engagement
Contact VEIC’s Nick Lange for more information at Nlange@veic.org or (802)-730-7070.