The power of real-time energy notifications: Sense, OhmConnect team to lower home usage 18 percent

Sense Solar
Sense Solar tracks solar production and energy use flowing between the home and electrical grid in real time and historically so that homeowners can get more from their solar investment.

Sense and OhmConnect conducted a pilot study to assess the impact of customer access to real time, appliance-specific energy usage and notifications on peak event savings. Through a combination of OhmHour rewards and high engagement with the Sense app, study participants delivered substantially higher savings than typical behavioral load management or demand response programs previously achieved. These outstanding savings reflect the power of in-the-moment messages and detailed home energy insights that guide motivated customers to save energy.

Sense users who actively participated in the OhmHours reward program reduced their energy usage 313 W per OhmHour on average, lowering their home energy usage by 18% and increasing their average savings by 160% over the typical OhmConnect customer. Most participants (74%) reported that notifications from the Sense app during an OhmHour were important to better manage their energy.

The energy savings delivered by joint Sense and OhmConnect users were much higher than those realized in other behavior-based demand response programs run by utilities, which typically yield less than 4% savings. Sense users engage frequently with the Sense app to track their home’s activity, with an average of nine app opens per month. This tendency to engage frequently translated into even higher engagement during the study. During Ohm events, Sense users engaged twice as frequently as during non-event hours. In a follow-up survey, more than half of participants reported they opened the app before or during the event to identify large loads they could shift.

Because of Sense’s real-time load disaggregation, it was possible to gain insights into what people were actually doing during events. Based on an analysis of Sense home data:

  • Nearly 70% of those who saved energy had turned off their AC altogether during OhmHours, instead of just adjusting it up, suggesting that they had pre-cooled their homes in response to the Sense app notification.
  • The Sense users who saved the most were 3 to 4 times less likely to run a dishwasher or do laundry during an event.
  • Moreover, in a subsequent survey, 74% of participants agreed that receiving notifications from Sense was important.
  • Over 64% of participants opted to get a smart thermostat or smart plug during enrollment, demonstrating their interest in further savings.

Today many utilities rely on bring your own thermostat (BYOT) programs to reduce electricity usage during peak events. While BYOT programs have succeeded in enrolling smart thermostats as dispatchable assets, they don’t take full advantage of savings from the wide variety of additional household appliances that contribute to energy load during peak events. Further, these programs do not offer real-time energy monitoring and performance feedback to customers.

The Sense real-time load disaggregation enables true, real-time device tracking. In the Sense app, users can see, in the moment, which household devices are turned on and how much electricity they’re using. Leading up to OhmHour events, Sense users received notifications in the app with suggestions to precool their home and delay starting laundry and other high-energy activities during events. These recommendations were reinforced by seeing the real-time breakdown of the user’s home energy usage in the Sense app, which made it easy to find the greatest savings.

OhmConnect, winner of the 2021 Fast Company World Changing Ideas Award, enables hundreds of thousands of customers to reimagine how they use energy. During an OhmHour, when demand for electricity is greatest and power companies would ordinarily have to turn on dirty power plants, OhmConnect rewards customers for powering down.

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