A team at the University of Arkansas and the University of San Francisco, led by an Indian-origin computer science researcher, has developed an iPhone automated energy-management system that monitors energy generation and consumption in off-grid and grid-tied homes that use solar energy or wind power.
As part of the system, an iPhone application warns homeowners of critical battery situations, suggests appliances to turn on or off, recommends ideal times to execute tasks that require greater power and adjusts power states of devices to reduce energy consumption.
"We've built a system that strikes a balance between totally automated control, which might irritate homeowners by turning off the television while they're watching a program, and reactive or manual techniques that really are not sufficient to prevent critical battery situations or energy outages," said Nilanjan Banerjee, assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering at the University of Arkansas.
"Our system simply alerts the homeowner of critical situations and then suggests which appliances to turn off.
"From anywhere, as long as they have their smart phone, homeowners can then use the software to direct the system to shut off the suggested appliance or a different one," he added.
The control system performs three important tasks. It predicts when a home's energy storage is likely to be critically low and notifies users/homeowners in advance so they may take proactive measures to reduce consumption.
Also, by predicting when energy harvested is at its peak, the system advises users/homeowners of ideal times to execute tasks, such as running a dishwasher or clothes washer, that require a lot of power.
Relying on information collected on each appliance, the system suggests energy conservation.
For example, based on information provided by the system, users could adjust or reduce the temperature of the refrigerator by a few degrees without negatively affecting its performance.