Do You Need a Home Energy Management System?

Are you thinking about installing a solar power array? Want to maximize energy efficiency? Then you may be interested in a home energy management system (HEMS). 

A home energy management system is designed to improve household energy use, but these systems aren’t cheap. Before you make an investment in a home energy management system take a few minutes to learn more about what a HEMS can do and how you could benefit from using one. 


The Basics About Home Energy Management Systems

The home energy management system global market is growing rapidly. It was a $2.1 billion industry in 2021 but is expected to reach $6.8 billion by 2027. It’s a clear sign that as energy prices increase, more people are looking for ways to curb consumption.

The primary objective of a home energy management system is to better manage energy use to improve efficiency. The HEMS does this by gathering information then using that information to:

  • Analyze how energy is used in the home. 
  • Measure the energy requirements of appliances and systems. 
  • Measure the energy consumption of appliances and devices.
  • Coordinate the operation of electrical components including solar panels and appliances.
  • Optimize energy consumption by automating systems.
  • Sync and manage smart devices.
  • Manage home batteries and backup power supplies.
  • Analyze local utility data to adjust use based on current energy demand.

If you have solar panels you can do even more with a home energy management system. One big advantage is being able to balance out and distribute solar power throughout the day. It helps overcome the issue of inconsistent energy production. And when you produce energy with your solar panels the HEMS can determine whether it should be used, stored or redistributed to the electrical grid. 

Installing a home energy management system can reduce energy use by 5-10%. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing that you’re using energy in a more sustainable way that helps decrease demand that is getting harder to meet. Plus, reducing energy use can help extend the life of your appliances, saving you even more money in the long run. 

How a Home Energy Management System Improves Efficiency

A home energy management system is a sophisticated setup that can accomplish some pretty amazing things. But how does a HEMS do it?

HEMS Software – The Brains of the System

A home energy management system is powered by innovative software. Without the software nothing is possible. The software’s algorithms are able to analyze massive amounts of data in real time. It then converts the data into reports that can be easily read and used to make energy efficiency updates. The software can even identify trends in the data and make predictions about future energy consumption. 

A home energy management system is analyzing more than just your energy use. To make the best predictions and adjustments HEMS software also measures:

  • Weather Conditions – The weather is going to have a big influence on energy use and needs. That’s why a HEMS constantly monitors current weather conditions. It’s the best way to balance comfort and efficiency.  
  • Availability of Electricity and Demand – If the grid gets strained a home energy management system can help ease the load. By measuring demand and the availability of electricity a HEMS can adjust energy use and tap into stored power if the home has solar panels. 
  • Current Energy Rates – A home energy management system can also take energy rates into consideration to determine the best way to automate systems. If you have a time-of-use or variable rate plan this feature can help you reduce energy costs even if you don’t use less energy. 

The Parts of a Home Energy Management System

The software is the brains of the HEMS operation, but it can’t do everything on its own. Other components are needed to make the system operable so that it can provide you with actionable information. The two other key components of a home energy management system are:

The Hub – The Heart of the System

The software connects to a hub in order to gather all of the data it analyzes. The hub is a device that is installed at the electric panel. It’s like a middle man that relays data from the panel to the software.

Internet-Connected Device – The Interface of the System

The software and hub gather data, but the information doesn’t do much good if you can’t read it. That’s where an internet-connected device comes into play. A device is needed to interact with the software so that the data can be read. Using a corresponding app you can get energy data reports, see changes in energy use and receive suggestions on how to reduce energy consumption. 

Provider Power customers can receive data on energy use even if they don’t have a home energy management system. Each month we’ll provide you with valuable information on how you consume energy so that you can reduce use and lower monthly costs.

Check to see which Provider Power energy plans are available in your area

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Gas Appliances vs Electric Appliances: Which Are Better for Your Energy Bills?

Are you buying a new home? Maybe you have an appliance that’s on its last leg? Or you want to upgrade your appliances for greener models? 

No matter what has you shopping around for appliances, there’s probably one big question on your mind. Are gas appliances or electric appliances better for my energy bills? 

That’s a good question and a pretty significant one. Some people don’t have the option and can only use electric appliances. But for those of you who can choose between gas and electric appliances, keep reading to get a better idea of which one is going to cost less to operate every month. 

Energy Rates: Electric Appliances vs Gas Appliances

The first thing most people think about when they’re deciding between electric and gas appliances is the cost of the energy source. Given that a lot of electricity is generated using natural gas, it’s understandable that gas prices would be cheaper than electricity prices. Generally speaking, electricity is more expensive than gas.

Of course, that isn’t always the case, especially in the northeast. You may remember how natural gas more than doubled in price over the last two years. 

When you compare costs, the timing makes a difference. At certain times of year, natural gas is going to cost more per therm in the northeast due to demand for heating fuels. If it’s a particularly cold winter season it can really increase the cost of natural gas. That will close the gap between gas prices and electricity prices. 

But to know for sure, you’ll have to research the average gas prices and electricity prices for your area. Rates are going to vary from one market to the next, even within the same state. 

Of course, if you own or plan to own a solar power system, then electric appliances will likely be the most cost-effective option since you’d be using electricity you generate from the sun for free. 

Winner

Gas Appliances – In almost all instances, despite rising natural gas prices, gas will be cheaper than electricity. 

Energy Efficiency: Electric Appliances vs Gas Appliances

But what about efficiency? What you end up paying on your utility bills isn’t just a matter of how much an energy resource costs. How much energy is used to power appliances is also a big factor. For that reason, you have to also consider the energy efficiency of gas and electric appliances.

Experts agree that gas appliances tend to be more energy efficient than their electric counterparts. Part of the reason gas appliances are more energy efficient is because gas generates heat more quickly than electricity.

However, it does depend on the appliance. For example, gas dryers are 30% more energy efficient than electric dryers. BUT – gas washing machines no longer exist. They have been replaced by a more efficient option – high-efficiency electric washers. 

All new appliances should provide information on energy requirements, meaning how much energy is needed for operation. You can use this information paired with the average energy rates in your area to get a good estimate of how much the appliance will cost to operate either monthly or annually. 

Winner: Gas Appliances – Once again natural gas comes out on top as the most energy efficient option for many appliances, although some types of electric appliances use less energy.

What to Know if You’re Switching 

Something to consider is the cost of switching from electric to gas or vice versa. Your home may not be set up for both types of appliances, which means you’ll need to do some converting. The cost could be just a couple hundred dollars or it could be a few thousand. 

If you are converting to gas, then gas lines may need to be installed. Conservative estimates put the cost somewhere between $250 and $700. And if you are converting to all-electric, then gas lines may need to be capped off and new wiring put in. Installing electric lines costs around $350 per line. 

There could be an upfront cost, but you may find that the monthly savings after switching is worth it in the long run. Something else you’ll want to keep in mind is that gas appliances tend to last longer than electric appliances since they have few parts. If you plan to be in your home for years to come, appliance longevity matters.

No matter what type of appliances you have, you can count on Provider Power as your energy supplier. We have service areas across the northeast – use your zip code to find electricity plans in Massachusetts, Maine energy plans and New Hampshire power plans for homes and businesses.

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Capitalists with Heart

6 Eco-Friendly Hotels in Massachusetts

You focus on keeping your home as eco-friendly as possible—so when you travel why not stay at hotels or B&B's that share those values? Headed to the Boston area? Here are some great choices for you and your family.

You focus on keeping your home as eco-friendly as possible—so when you travel, it’s a priority to find accommodations that are as concerned about the earth as you are.

Amidst a growing awareness about the environmental impact of travel, many hotels now strive to reduce their environmental footprint through water and energy conservation, recycling and more. Here’s a look at several Massachusetts hotels large and small that are using eco-friendly practices.

  1. The Lenox Hotel in Boston: The Lenox launched the nation’s first linen re-use program and Boston’s first commercial electric vehicle charging station. The Copley Square hotel features low-flow toilets, showerheads and aerators and in-room and lobby recycling bins. It also uses hybrid vehicles for its car service and housekeeping uniforms made from recycled plastic fiber.
  2. Topia Inn in Adams: Nestled in the Berkshires, this intimate, 9-room organic inn serves  guests non-GMO, USDA-certified organic meals with fair trade coffee and tea. Rooms are equipped with LED lights and dual flush toilets to conserve water and energy, while furnishings are made with organic, rapidly renewable and fair trade materials. The innkeepers also plan to add solar hot water in the coming year.
  3. NineZero in Boston: Located near Boston Commons, NineZero’s sustainable practices include in-room recycling bins, low-flow toilets, showers and faucets, energy-efficient lighting fixtures and a towel and linen re-use program. NineZero also donates unused and partially used bath amenities (also eco-friendly) to community programs and makes eco-friendly dry cleaning services available to guests.
  4. Irving House in Cambridge: Irving House is a bed and breakfast in Harvard Square and dispenses eco-friendly toiletries from built-in units to avoid the waste of individual bottles. It also composts food waste and uses household items such as cups, rugs and picture frames made from recycled materials. The B&B was awarded EPA’s Energy Star in 2006.
  5. Provincetown Hotel in Provincetown: This historic Cape Cod hotel hosts educational workshops on wildlife tracking and birding; offers American-made bath amenities that are not tested on animals; and recycles materials including cans, metals, glass and paper. Guests use water-saving shower and faucet heads and enjoy breakfast served in a garden courtyard patio. The Inn also distributes literature about preserving the Ross Sea in Antarctica.
  6. The Colonnade Hotel in Boston: The Colonnade Hotel uses a non-toxic, chemical-free cleaning system to reduce chemical waste and exposure to toxins. Other sustainable initiatives include composting food waste, recycling of paper, plastics, metals and other materials. The Colonnade was also the first hotel to join a soap recycling program, according to its website.

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New England Pipeline Expansions Proposed

Earlier this fall, energy pipeline operators announced plans to boost the energy supply across New England, reports the Boston Globe. This region has not added any new gas pipeline capacity for the past two decades, which has created supply issues and temporarily boosted wholesale prices for gas and electricity during extreme winter temperatures.

Earlier this fall, energy pipeline operators announced plans to boost the energy supply across New England, reports the Boston Globe. This region has not added any new gas pipeline capacity for the past two decades, which has created supply issues and temporarily boosted wholesale prices for gas and electricity during extreme winter temperatures.

Availability of natural gas is a significant driver in the cost and production of electricity. In fact, at one point during a cold spell last winter, wholesale electricity prices jumped up to $1,290 per megawatt hour, which is more than 35 times the yearlong average of $36 per megawatt hour!

Increasing the energy supply could help alleviate these dramatic spikes in cost, and ultimately help energy residential customers across New England lower their energy bills. One potential project called Access Northeast would impact the Algonquin pipeline, which runs from New Jersey to Everett, and the Maritimes & Northeast line, which carries liquefied natural gas pumped from ships off the coast of Eastern Canada.

Officials at Spectra and Northeast Utilities, the companies proposing the expansion, say the project would be finished in 2018, assuming the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gives its approval (the companies have not yet filed a formal proposal with FERC, but say they plan to do so next year). The two companies plan to invest $3 billion into the project, delivering an additional 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day into New England. That is enough to supply over 3 million homes. Spectra has already proposed a 14 percent expansion of the Algonquin pipeline, a project that, if approved, would likely be completed during the winter of 2016-2017. The new Access Northeast project would complement that expansion.

Energy customers would help recover the project costs of Access Northeast over the first year after the project’s completion, but increasing access to affordable natural gas would likely result in lower energy bills over the long term. Fracking in Pennsylvania and other areas has helped lower the cost of natural gas in other parts of the country, but without increased pipeline capacity, New England customers have not benefited from those cost savings.

The other pipeline expansion proposal involves building a pipeline to supply gas from Pennsylvania across New York and Western Massachusetts. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, the energy company behind that proposal, plans to solicit public input later this year and file a pipeline application next fall.

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Energy Incentives for Massachusetts Homeowners

Energy savings makes both financial & environmental sense. There are options for Massachusetts consumers. What option is best for you?

As temperatures cool and homeowners brace for another New England winter, it’s time to think about ways to save on energy costs. Aside from turning down the thermostat and piling on the sweaters, Massachusetts tax credits and state rebates could help you avoid a chill-inducing bill.

We’ve rounded up several options for Massachusetts homeowners to consider.

  • Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit: If you install a renewable-energy system (such as solar water and space heating, photovoltaics or wind-energy systems) in your home, then you may be eligible for a 15 percent state tax credit totalling up to $1,000. Any excess tax credit left over may be carried forward for up to three years.
  • Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption: Solar-energy systems and wind-energy systems that supply heat or other energy to a taxable property are exempt from local property taxes for 20 years. The exemption applies to the value added to the property, not the full property tax; any dual-purpose components (such as windows or thermal drapes) are not eligible.
  • Renewable Energy Equipment Sales Tax Exemption: Massachusetts exempts renewable energy equipment such as geothermal heat pumps and solar space heaters from sales tax. Complete Massachusetts Tax Form ST-12 [PDF] and submit it to your vendor when you purchase the system.
  • Commonwealth Small Pellet Boiler Grant Program: Install a high-efficiency, low-particulate matter wood pellet boiler or furnace in your home ,and you could receive a grant of up to $15,000. The base grant is $7,000 and adders are available for criteria such as thermal storage ($2,000) or moderate income ($2,000). Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Commonwealth Solar Hot Water Residential Program: Through the Commonwealth Solar Hot Water Pilot Program, rebates are available for installing residential solar hot water systems. The residence must be occupied year round, and the maximum incentive is $3,500 per building or 25 percent of the total installed costs. You may be eligible for an additional $1,500 to cover the costs of a meter installation if you sign up for the MassCEC performance monitoring program.
  • Commonwealth Solar II: This program provides rebates on photovoltaic systems in homes and businesses to the system owner. The base incentive is $.40/watt and adders are available for moderate home values, moderate income and Natural Disaster Relief.
  • Commonwealth Woodstove Change-Out Pilot Program: Residents with a non-EPA-certified wood-, wood-pellet-, or coal-burning stove can receive help with the cost of replacing it for a high-efficiency, low-emissions wood stove or fireplace insert, or a wood-pellet stove or fireplace insert. Under this program, the maximum rebate is $2,000 for low-income residents and $1,000 for other residents.

Individual utility providers may offer their own utility rebates or zero-percent financing loans as well, so it pays to explore all of your options to maximize your potential savings.

 

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