Friday, August 04, 2006

How TiVo Can Cut Your Electricity Bill By 15%

Passed Out Drunk
Millionaire Moms

I was reading the May issue of Fortune Small Business, when I stumbled upon a great article. Inspired by TiVo, one company decided to create a device that cuts your electricity bill by 10-15%. How do they do it? Simple. Utility companies charge you different rates, depending on the day and time that electricity is consumed. The cheapest rate is at 3AM (no wonder). So this device accumulates electricity when it’s cheap and then releases it during peak hours, when the rates are much higher. Brilliant, isn’t it? Here is more from that article.

"Our product will allow customers to trim their bills painlessly," says CEO Peter Corsell. "Think of it as a kind of TiVo for electricity."

The device, called GridPoint Protect, is the size of a small file cabinet and connects to the circuitbreaker panel. (The company also offers a lower-capacity version designed for homes, which costs $10,000.) A built-in computer powered by a Pentium chip will make intelligent purchase decisions, buying when prices are low, then storing the electricity for later use. That will make it possible to run your company during the workday with cheaper electricity that you purchased at 3 A.M.

Corsell, 28, estimates that his device will shave a business's electric bill by about 15%. Assuming monthly charges of $2,500, the system would pay for itself in less than four years.

GridPoint Protect offers a second function: Because it stores electricity, it can double as a backup generator that is safer and faster than many models currently available. Standard generators run on gas or diesel, and their carbon-monoxide exhaust fumes can be dangerous. By contrast, GridPoint Protect uses safer gel-style batteries, similar to those that back up cellphone towers. Standard generators also take a few seconds to power up, but GridPoint Protect kicks in within about 30 milliseconds, fast enough to prevent a company's computers or other sensitive devices from crashing.

Founded in 2003, GridPoint has raised $18 million from venture capital firms and private investors and now employs a staff of 50, with no revenues until it sold its first units this spring. The company features an all-star board of advisors, including tech guru Esther Dyson and Bill Bradley, the former presidential candidate and longtime member of the Senate Energy Committee.

"It's a smart company, focused on a couple of regions where there's a real need in the marketplace," says Daniel Violette, a Boulder energy consultant.

Picture it - one day soon you might be at a cocktail party and encounter someone bragging not about his hot stock picks but about how much he saved on his electric bill.

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Blogger Justin said...

Wow. This is the dumbest idea in the history of ideas.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it dumb? Saving money doesn't seem dumb to me.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Shalmanese said...

Lets work through the math. For a company to spend $2500 a month on energy costs, they would be spending $83 a day. At a grossly inflated price of 30c a kW/hr, those batteries need to store 280kW/hr of power to last through an entire day.

If you saved 15% on your energy bill, thats $375 a month or $18,000 over 4 years. If these guys have managed to make a 280kW/hr battery bank that can be built, maintained and have an active service life of 4 years that has a total cost of ownership of under $18,000 then, they've managed to invent some new battery technology literally several orders of magnitudes better than the competition. But what I'm willing to bet is that they HAVEN'T done this and this is just a stupid, stupid waste of money.

3:26 PM  
Blogger thesecretaznman said...

It was only inevitable that someone would create a device like this; one time or another.

At least I the relative safety of knowing that when I purchase a home, some N number of years from now, there's the possibility of being able to save money on my power bill in such a manner.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Hermann Strijewski said...

This just has GOT to be a bad idea. The process of converting electricity into DC, storing it in a battery, and then later converting it back into AC has huge energy losses in the conversion processes, you lose at least 50% in the processes, especially at the battery end. So unless the 3am-electricity costs less than half as much you're really not saving ANYTHING at all.

After the years when you've amortized your costs, you'll need to invest that into new batteries.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Ursus said...

"30 milliseconds" is a long freaking time, plenty long enough to trip your computers

8:03 PM  
Blogger Allison's Mommy said...

Why not just put in a Solar PV system, which in many places, is cheapter per kW than paying the utility company? The systems are have a guarantee for 25 yrs. That is at 25 years they are guaranteed to be producing at 80% capacity. is a great company if you are in Central California.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...electricity is always 0,05$/kw here, whatever the time of the day... useless.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Desco said...

And once more people start stocking up energy at 3am, the supply/demand system is going to change the price of power so it's equal. Loser: you, because you spent $10,000 on a device which no longer saves you money like advertised.

But in the mean time, there's things we can do: Leave your computer on overnight running Bittorrent, shut it off before you go to work.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why is it dumb?"

(1) Most utility companies charge a published flat per kilowatt hour fee, that you must sign a contract agreeing to pay in order to get electricity. So, it doesn't matter when you use, only how much. That makes this product useless almost everywhere. That would be hard to overcome even if it weren't large, loud, expensive and falsely advertised.

(2) The product's website makes no mention of 10 to 15 % savings, nor even how much their fridge sized machines actually cost. Add that to the other points discussed in these comments that show that there is no savings, and the real question is: Why on Earth did Will link to this without research?!


6:44 PM  

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