2017 is going to be a big year for Empowered Homes and I thought I’d share how we got started and why we do what we do, before things are kicked into high gear.
Upon graduation from Dalhousie University I knew I wanted to do two things: 1) Help homeowners lower their energy bills and 2) Move back to my hometown of St. John’s, NL.
I started, the company with a simple idea: Provide my technical knowledge of energy efficiency to homeowners through home energy assessments (thorough home inspection followed by comprehensive report with clear steps on how homeowners could implement energy efficiency upgrades).
Over the course of a couple of years, I worked with dozens of homeowners in making their homes more energy efficient. I loved it not only because I was helping people save on energy costs and making their homes more comfortable to live in, but also because I got to learn something new with every homeowner I worked with. It was through this work that I learned something very important that would ultimately shape the future direction of the company and that was about thermostats for baseboard heaters.
I learned that many homeowners do not think about their electric baseboard heaters or thermostats other than cranking it up when they’re cold and possibly turning it down when they are leaving the house. This was the extent of their relationship with their thermostats. Until, that is, when they learn that their thermostats control 50-70% of their home’s total energy consumption.
The fact is, heating up the air inside a house takes a LOT of energy. To give you some idea of just how much, think about this: The average 2,000 sq. ft. home in NL consumes 20,000 kWh of energy for heating purposes in one year. If you used 20,000 kWh of electricity to drive an electric vehicle across Canada, you would make it from St. John’s to Victoria and back… 8 times!
Once homeowners understood how much they were actually paying for their heating they started to ask the right questions. How should I heat my house to maximize energy savings? How do I program a programmable thermostat? Are there smart thermostats that will control my electric baseboard heaters?
At this point I would tell them everything they needed to know about how much programmable thermostats for electric baseboard heaters cost, how many they would need, what a typical set-back schedule would look like and how much energy they could expect to save. And while electric baseboard programmable thermostats were a step in the right direction, I would frequently hear the following:
“I like the idea of saving energy with programmable thermostats but they are very complicated to use.”
“I had the thermostats programmed once, but then there was a power outage and I never bothered to go around and reset them.”
“Can’t I program my thermostats from my smart phone or computer yet?”
Being located in NL where there is a high concentration of homes with electric baseboard heating (over 50% of homes), I unfortunately had to tell them that these programmable thermostats had not kept up with technology and that there was no easy solution to make these problems go away.
After hearing these complaints from homeowner after homeowner I decided to take a closer look at the market to find out why this was the case. What I found was that in Canada, about 1 in 3 homes had electric baseboard heating. However, our neighbours to the south had a different story where only 1 in 20 US homes used electric baseboard heating.
What this told me was that new smart thermostat technology had moved to serve the masses and left everyone else behind. The worst part was that this left about 10 million homes in Canada and the US, without a convenient solution to make controlling their heating system as easy as it should be.
Over the next 6 months a deeper investigation revealed that it wasn’t only the market size that was holding back new technology to entering this sector of the market. There were some real challenging technical challenges to building a smart line voltage thermostat.
After a lot of hard work and scratching our heads, the team at Empowered Homes (now 7 dedicated individuals) came up with a design that re-imagined how a wireless electric baseboard thermostat should function, should look like, and how homeowners should interact with it. This was the birth of Mysa.
We have a lot of great information coming out soon with more details on Mysa, but they all surround the same core values. Mysa provides you with the convenient and easy way to control your electric baseboard heaters so that you can maximize your energy savings while keeping your home as comfortable as can be! Stay tuned.