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Print 22 comment(s) - last by Shmak.. on Jul 8 at 5:38 PM


  (Source: blindalley.com)

Microsoft's Hohm is a web application which aims to help users track and cut their power costs. The app looks to contend with Google's PowerMeter.  (Source: Microsoft)
Plug yourself into Microsoft

Microsoft wants you to plug yourself into its new technology.  Debuting today is Microsoft's new Hohm beta, which promises to provide homeowners with means to manage and track power usage in their homes.  The tool is a public beta so it's free for anyone to sign up for and try.

Power bills comprise a major expense for many homeowners.  For owners of small properties such as condominiums, U.S. power bills can be as little as $100 or less a month.  For owners of larger homes, power bills can soar to over $300 or more a month, though.  Power has variable costs, so if homeowners were able to run power-hungry appliances during lulls when power was cheaper, it would both ease stress on the aging power grid and cut their bills substantially.

This is the aim of new power meter technology from Microsoft, which will compete with Google's PowerMeter, the first such solution to hit the market.  Currently, the system does not physically connect to your power meter or appliances -- rather it takes in input such as your power bills and home information and uses it to generate suggestions.

The project is still in its infancy.  Explains Michaeljon Miller, software architect for Microsoft Hohm, "The team's been sitting in a conference room on campus since about 5:30 this morning watching things spin up. Considering this is the first major web application that most of the team has shipped, things went extremely well."

With Google already partnering with power meter manufacturers and utilities and beginning to deploy smart meters, don't expect Microsoft to wait long before taking the project up another notch.  The project currently is only available in the U.S.



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RE: If everyone...
By Diesel Donkey on 7/7/2009 12:00:56 PM , Rating: 3
Assuming it's a zero-sum game, an increase in power usage during slower periods would decrease usage in the high-usage periods. Everything should balance out. It seems like you're making the assumption that this technology would lead to more power usage during the slower periods while the high-usage periods remain unaffected. If everything balances out, the technology is effective.


RE: If everyone...
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2009 12:27:34 PM , Rating: 2
The point is - if it balances out - the low cost low use periods will equalize with the high cost high usage periods creating a net zero sum gain in money savings due to the low cost periods no longer being low cost.

If you know the power companies well enough, they are always trying to find ways to raise your costs - and, they will then no longer categorize the new median range as eligible for any savings - so, you'll be stuck back where you were before. Don't try to fight the monster by gaming the system that they are already masters of gaming. Instead, use less power overall and directly reduce your costs.


RE: If everyone...
By Diesel Donkey on 7/7/2009 12:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
I admit my ignorance when it comes to power company pricing policies, but my idea was that if the load does balance out then the cost of power during the high-use periods would decrease. But I suppose that wouldn't help if the cost during the low use periods increases, especially since it would become advantageous once again just to use power during the traditional higher-use periods.

From a monetary standpoint this technology does seem useless, but I'm sure there are benefits to reducing peak load on the power plants, unless they are more efficient at high load or something. At the very least there would be fewer brownouts.

I agree that using less power is a sure-fire way to reduce costs and bring about other positive effects, as well.


RE: If everyone...
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2009 1:38:03 PM , Rating: 3
I think leveling out the load is the goal of the power companies by providing incentivized pricing. It is in their best interests to reduce peak loading as it creates excess heat which leads to increased overall total inefficiency of power transmission due to atmospheric leakage, either via the heat itself or electrons. i.e. wasted electricity by making more - which raises the power companies costs due to the need to increase loading even further to meet the demand requirement - hence, eventual brownouts. Remember, heat is one electricity transmissions worst enemies to effeciency and also is a direct side effect of resistance to the flow of electrons in a line.

I could be wrong though, I'm not an EE. Now if only they could figure out a cost effective way to reconvert all that heat back into electricity and pump it back through the system without melting the lines...

Once they level their loads out though, the theory is they will then revert to the standard pricing model once more negating these original benefits.


RE: If everyone...
By Smilin on 7/7/2009 1:57:38 PM , Rating: 3
It's not just a matter of heat. It's really more a product of how the power is produced.

For example I live near a nuke plant. They can't spin that thing up during the day then spin it back down at night. It has to run at a relatively contant rate.

To make up for the shortcomings during peak hours other generation methods are brought online. These can be as extreme as diesel powered turbines. Whatever the method used it is a far more costly method to produce power.


RE: If everyone...
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2009 2:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
That too. Very true indeed. We had a nuke plant in southern GA shut down a few times back in June and it took several days to ramp back up to full capacity. They can't just start splitting atoms like crazy, it takes time so fluctuations in total usage leads to periods of wasted production they can not easily adjust the generators for.

http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idAFN26...


RE: If everyone...
By Spacy on 7/7/2009 10:31:14 PM , Rating: 3
I am a Power Engineer in Alberta and I well tell you right now that this is a great idea. At night a number of power plants (Co-Gen and some coal) shut off. During the day there is not enofe generating capcity to keep up with demand and thereby drive the priceses higher. If we started to use more power at night and less for the day. Causing prices not to be driven as high to keep down demand. We will keep plants running at night that cost a good deal of money to start up and shut down. This well also reduce the need to build more plants to keep up with the day demand. Prices, well drop, for the cost of power but I only hope that the companies pass the savings on to us


RE: If everyone...
By Spacy on 7/7/2009 10:35:11 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry Grammer needs some work I know, but still my comment has points


RE: If everyone...
By Smilin on 7/8/2009 11:58:50 AM , Rating: 2
I'd +1 you just for the insight provided.


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