Customers Try Smart Lighting

Customers partner with Focus on Energy and MGE in study of energy savings from smart lighting.

Donna and John Wileden wouldn't consider themselves "tech savvy."

Retired from the state Department of Transportation, 79-year-old John Wileden has made sure their west side Madison home of nearly 50 years is well insulated. He's also planning to replace an old ceiling fixture in the kitchen with something more energy efficient. But, he says they haven't actively explored the latest in energy-saving technologies – until now.

The Wiledens try smart lighting

MGE Residential Services Manager Brian Driscoll talks to John Wileden about options for updating his kitchen ceiling fixture with newer, energy-efficient lighting.

The Wiledens are among dozens of MGE customers enrolled in a 12-week connected lighting and advanced power strip study through Focus on Energy. Here's how it works: For six weeks, three meters in the home tracked typical household energy use.

After the first six weeks, customers received two smart LED light bulbs and a Philips Hue at no cost. The Hue "connects" the smart bulbs using WiFi. The small device allows users to program their connected lighting or manage it remotely using an app on a smart phone.

Customers also were sent at no cost an Embertec smart strip. Smart power strips may use a combination of timers, sensors and internet connectivity to reduce energy use. The strips power down devices when they go unused. For example, if you fall asleep in front of the TV or if you forget to turn it off when leaving the room, a smart strip will know to power down the TV, reducing its draw of electricity.

Once the Hue and Embertec strip were installed, the meters then began tracking household energy consumption with the new technologies in use. The study will help determine the energy-savings impact of the devices by comparing participating customers' use throughout the 12 weeks.

The Wiledens placed their energy-efficient LED smart bulbs in two of the most frequently used areas of their home – the living room and basement work area. They also planned to connect the smart strip to their TV.

When MGE visited, the Wiledens were still learning how to use their new technologies but were intrigued by the energy-savings potential from their increasingly "smart" home.

The Wiledens try smart lighting

"Both of us are curious. It would be nice to use it in a way that might be helpful to someone else to learn from," Donna Wileden said.

And that's one objective behind this study of home-automation technologies.

Focus on Energy, which administers programs and incentives to help Wisconsin consumers save energy and money, will use the results of this study to help evaluate whether to include these technologies in future programs. For example, Focus on Energy currently has an incentive offer for Wisconsin utility customers who are interested in upgrading to a smart thermostat. Visit focusonenergy.com/smart to learn more.

New products and services a priority under Energy 2030

MGE is partnering with Focus on Energy for this study because developing and testing new products and services to manage energy use is an objective under our Energy 2030 framework for a more sustainable future. Energy-saving technologies can save customers money but also can reduce our environmental footprint. When demand for power is high, electric generation facilities, such as power plants, need to meet that demand. By reducing energy use, customers reduce the demand on the system, enabling power plants to run less and thereby produce fewer emissions.

The Wiledens, meanwhile, welcome the idea of shaving dollars and cents off of their bill but also admit the whole experience has them a bit more curious about becoming tech savvy!

published: 08-22-2017 | updated: 09-18-2017