Smart House Demonstrates Energy-Saving Technology

Reliant Energy has set up a house to demonstrate new technology that can help reduce energy consumption. Ed Mayberry visited the "smart house" near Westheimer and Shepherd.

A combination of advanced digital meters are ending the days of flipping the switch without knowing how much power you're using or what it costs.  More than 2,000 customers in Texas are already enrolled in Reliant's smart energy pilot projects.  Reliant Energy's Wayne Morrison says home energy monitors, automation systems and new smart energy services can be used in combination.

"We have the home energy monitor, is one thing to show customers as they turn things on and off, what that does to their energy usage immediately.  One of the devices can then calculate how much energy you're using, and show you a cents-per-hour."

Ed: "So now, is that a new reading that just came across?"

"Now, so we went from 70 cents to 99 cents.  We turned on the air conditioner."

smart house monitoring


The heaviest load on the grid is between 4 and 6 in the afternoon, and time-of-use plans are being developed.  Reliant relates this to cell phone plans, where nights and weekends have different price ranges.

"As prices go up, you may change a thermostat setting."

Ed:"I mean, this is a step beyond what people probably do with their thermostats, anyway, which is to, you know, not worry about keeping the house super-cool when nobody's at home during the day and then readjusting at night."

"If you have a programmable thermostat, that can help save you energy.  If there's a time-of-use type of price, you could save additional energy."

The customer with new technology might, for example, decide to dry clothes at a cheaper time of the day.  Reliant is the only competitive retailer in Texas selected by the Department of Energy to receive federal stimulus funding for upgrades of the nation's electricity grid, as the company's Scott Burns explains.

"So we were one of 100 companies in the country that was awarded the Smart Grid stimulus money.  Hopefully create jobs along the way, but really get some of these new emerging smart energy products out to our customers.  Things like a weekly email that allows you see what happened to my house last week.  Now we can tell you in week one, two or three of your bill cycle, so that I can make those changes in my behavior to help impact that."

Morrison and Burns say the new meters offer the customer more control.

CenterPoint meter"New meter versus old meters: the older meters, traditional dials and the disc that spins.  The new meters now have the digital display so it's much easier for a customer to read."

Ed: "This is a major change for the industry, isn't it?  I mean, that meter's been around since I was a kid."

"Yeah, since I think Edison was in the business!  And so, yeah, it's a huge change for the industry.  But it really does, that platform, there's so much intelligence that goes into the advanced meter.  There's also gonna be products that we haven't even thought of yet, that uses that platform as kind of the base line."

The Houston area could see full deployment of smart meters by 2014.  CenterPoint also received stimulus funds, and that could accelerate the rollout.  Ed Mayberry, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.  

To view the rollout, visit CenterPoint AMS Deployment Map 2009-2014

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...