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How Much Did that Shower Cost? The Energy Data Analytics Lab and Smart Tech Insights

How Much Did that Shower Cost? The Energy Data Analytics Lab and Smart Tech Insights

Friday, January 8, 2016

Smart thermostatSmart shower heads that conserve water. Wi-Fi thermostats you can control from your iPhone. There’s no doubt that home appliances have changed significantly in the last twenty years.

And with climate change and cost almost ever-present on the minds of consumers, the energy and appliance industries are drawing on new tech to become faster, more efficient, and friendlier to budgets as well as the environment.

At the same time, advances are providing more information about our production and consumption of energy than ever before. Individual appliances can provide feedback about usage, access Smart Grid technology to draw energy at non-peak times, and perhaps more importantly, let us know if we left the oven on when we're out of the house.

With this new tech has come an ability to gather an incredible amount of data from energy systems. The challenge: interpreting that data to provide research-backed solutions that improve reliability, resiliency, environmental sustainability, productivity, and affordability. 

The Energy Data Analytics Lab is a groundbreaking hub of research and education activity that aims to do just that. Supported by the Duke Energy Initiative in Gross Hall, the Lab embraces the challenges of working with an ever-changing industry that produces so much raw data.

“It’s an interesting area of research because it’s technology that didn’t exist before,” said Kyle Bradbury, managing director of the Lab. “We have to ask ourselves what we can do to transform this rich source of information into actionable efforts. So we convene people around ideas regarding what the frontiers in energy data are.”

These frontiers in energy data require interdisciplinary expertise. In the Lab, engineers, statisticians, public policy experts, and social science researchers all work together to maximize the potential for the data and resulting insights to have an impact on behavior.

Adjacent to both the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) and the Information Initiative at Duke (iiD), the Lab is positioned both literally and figuratively to take advantage of the wealth of expertise in the interdisciplinary community at Duke.

The need for understanding these insights and what they mean for the industry, policymakers, and consumers is crucial. “You never really think ‘this shower cost me 50 cents,’” said Bradbury. “So the social science question is how we get this across to people.”

Projects so far have included building smart meters that can disaggregate individual appliance data from aggregate building data (in other words, tell precisely how much energy the clothes dryer in your home is using), developing control systems to maximize the energy efficiency of residential hot water heaters, and tracking solar panels across geographic regions using satellite imagery to estimate solar energy capacity in certain regions.

Now in its third year sponsoring a Bass Connections project team, Bradbury credits Bass with providing fresh talent and knowledge to the Lab. “Students typically fall into roles where they see strength. We’ve been fortunate to have some incredible students work with us here.”

For more information about the Energy Data Analytics Lab at Duke, click here.

To find out approximately how much energy the appliances in your house use, click here.

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