Skip to main content

Crouching Heater, Hidden Pool Pump

This article originally appeared in the May 2-18 issue of Strategies, the magazine of the Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP.ORG).

Crouching Heater, Hidden Pool Pump

The unintended consequences of missing appliances when analyzing loads

Utilities collect and analyze energy usage data for various purposes such as fine tuning load predictions, designing demand side management programs, and improving rate allocation models. While there are many ways to create usage models, there are two common methodologies. Data-based analysis, such as direct load monitoring and disaggregation, create a per-appliance model by analyzing actual user data. Statistical models, such as fixed allocation and regression analysis, use general assumptions to model usage loads. While statistical models are a common method, they can often miss “hidden” usage loads. These missed usage loads can be significant, leading to unintended consequences for utilities and their customers.

Load Analysis 101

Fixed Allocation Model

Itemizes energy according to “typical” energy usage loads for a given home type and climatic region. Itemization does not vary based on conditions (such as weather) or consumer behavior.

Correlation and Regression Analysis

Itemizes energy usage by statistical modeling against factors such as region/weather, home type, and occupancy. Itemization varies by dynamic conditions such as weather, but does not take into account changes such as vacations or appliance upgrades. Often relies on user input to detect presence of appliances.


Itemizes energy usage by applying machine learning algorithms to energy usage patterns, typically using AMI data. Provides personalized itemization and identifies loads such as heating, cooling, refrigerator, pool pump, electric water heater, and EV without needing user input.

Electric Water Heater: Wherefore Art Thou?

While water heaters are pretty large appliances, they are very good at hiding. Electric water heater loads are often camouflaged within HVAC load because they don’t have a predictable pattern of their own. It’s difficult to develop a general assumption regarding the presence of an electric water heater based on home type or size. Whether a home has an electric or gas water heater can vary based on regional characteristics, construction standards, and the age of the residence. Simple load analysis will often erroneously attribute the energy used by the water heater to HVAC loads. This can lead to frustration for many customers that are conscientiously managing their heating levels if the utility incorrectly recommends they lower thermostat levels.

Did You Know?

In reviewing disaggregated usage data, we learned that in most of the U.S. there is a 40-50% variation between water heater energy consumption in winter versus summer. This is due to the diversity in weather climates, combined with water infrastructure standards that insulate against seasonal swings in water temperature. In Australia, the variance between summer and winter is lower because because few parts of the country reach below freezing temperatures. Conversely, in Japan we identified a 200-300% difference in energy consumption in winter compared to summer due to a difference in infrastructure standards as well as most regions experiencing freezing temperatures.

By not identifying electric water heaters, utilities miss the opportunities for customer engagement to provide water heater-related recommendations. For instance, if the customer has a timer on the water heater, it could be set for an hour before the morning alarm, eliminating water heater cycles during the night. Alternately, the customer could be advised to turn off the water heater from midnight to 5:00 am.

Pool Pumps: Pay No Attention to that Pump Behind the Cabana

Pool pumps are often excluded from simple load analysis because it is difficult to identify which customers have pools. In hot geographies with very cold winters, many people turn the pool pump off in the winter. The load is often hidden in the summer, when they turn the pump back on, because simple analysis attributes the seasonal usage spike solely to air conditioning. In some regions pools are commonplace, and by omitting the pool pump energy load, utilities can miscategorize a large “pool” (sorry!) of customers. This leads to skewed usage levels, and missed opportunities to educate customers on the best times to cycle pool pumps in order to manage spikes in energy consumption.

When correlating usage against weather, the hidden pool pump load can adversely affect air conditioning sensitivity analysis by overestimating cooling usage. Hence any demand side management program would overstate the savings possible from switching AC off, or from changing the setpoint. Depending on the magnitude of the inaccuracy, summer demand side management and efficiency programs could be less effective and require greater intervention.


Failing to account for pool pumps also affects customer engagement. The increased load caused by a pool pump cycling during the day could lead to an assumption that the customer is home during the day. Utilities that target customers based on usage segmentation would send information that is not pertinent to that customer. Even more detrimental, inaccurate load analysis for a pool customer would make his or her home appear inefficient compared to similar homes within the region. This can lead to customers complaining about being “energy shamed” on their home energy report, a particular concern for many utilities.

Isolating pool pump usage from air conditioning usage also helps to optimize summer demand response programs, as the incremental effect of each air conditioning unit can be more accurately predicted and balanced. The utility can explain to customers that syncing household usage with a timed pool pump schedule can be a big cost saver. In winter, the utility can encourage the customer to run the pool pump during the day, when peak energy loads are lower. In the summer, the pool pump could be run in the evening, avoiding daytime air conditioning peak loads. Residents can also be informed of the inefficiency of old pool pumps, and the savings they could realize by replacing them.

EV Chargers: Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

EV chargers contribute another energy load that often hides within plain sight. After installation of a charger, the customer’s overall usage may increase. Because most electric vehicles are plugged in at night, the utility may incorrectly correlate the increase in load to temperature and time, grouping the usage with either heating or lighting loads. By detecting and separating the EV load, the utility is able to proactively offer a cost effective rate structure or recommendations on managing charging times. This increases customer satisfaction, as the customer feels that the utility is a partner in his or her energy conservation journey.


As technology advances, the ways we use data to understand consumer behavior and make energy saving adjustments will continue to evolve. As an increasing number of utilities turn to data-based disaggregation, they are finding greater accuracy in their usage load models. This identification drives even greater energy efficient behavior, as the utility gains a more clear understanding of which loads are shiftable and reducible. In the long term, a more predictable and stable model of usage will allow the industry to develop more equitable rate structures that charge consumers based on actual energy costs and that truly reward energy conservation practices.


The more utilities engage with customers, helping them to understand their energy billing and control their costs, the greater overall customer satisfaction. If customers feel that utilities truly understand their energy usage and that the information the utility provides is correct for their situation, they are much more likely to approve of the utility. This is reinforced by the recent JD Powers 2017 Energy Utility Products and Services Study that found customer satisfaction is dramatically improved by actively engaging with customers across a number of channels. Developing these lines of communications will enhance customer service, billing and corporate citizenship.


“Alexa, does my utility have a voice assistant?”

Forrester estimates that 50% of U.S. homes will have at least one smart speaker by 2022. The rapid growth of this medium is changing the way consumers seek and consume information. It’s imperative for utilities to reinforce their brand as a modern service provider. Further, it’s a powerful way to engage consumers, encourage energy behaviors, and offer new products and services.

48% of those who own a voice-activated speaker would like to receive personalized tips and information from brands to make their lives easier. [Source: Google] Utility customers are no different. Consider the results from a recent survey conducted by Bidgely of smart speaker users where over half said they would like their utilities to provide a voice assistant. In addition, of suggested options, the top utility features requested are:


Which appliances are using the most energy 42%
Predicted energy bill for the month 23%
Paying my bill 21%
Info on energy savings products and services 14%
Alert for predicted high energy bill 6%

Bidgely has developed a Voice for Utilities guide to help utilities understand the various decisions and process involved in developing a voice solution that will build ongoing engagement with consumers. Examples of decisions are whether to build a voice assistant in-house or leverage an off-the-shelf solution, which features are required, and what it takes to deliver the solution to consumers.

Web Portal – Modernized for Today’s Consumer

Today’s typical consumer spends hours on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and the like, so they’ve come to expect all digital interactions to be personalized. What’s the modern utility to do? Well, Bidgely’s recently-updated web portal solution is the answer, helping to deliver an engaging digital energy experience personalized to each consumer. In fact, one utility recently found that 90% of consumers gave the 👍  to their Bidgely-powered offering!

What makes the web portal so great?

  • Analytics | Bidgely’s Universal Disaggregation provides 100% appliance itemization for every home, making it easy for each consumer to see which appliances are costing the most each month. For consumers looking to fine-tune their experience, Bidgely’s home assessment tool is right at their fingertips, making it easy to get more out of the solution by simply lifting a finger.
  • Recommendations | Long gone are the days wondering if that generic energy-saving recommendation is relevant or not. Bidgely’s recommendations are based on the actual appliances you’re using the most, so they’re always relevant.
  • Usage | For the energy nerds (like most of us at Bidgely) who want to dig further into their usage, Bidgely provides detailed daily, monthly, and annual usage information to help “power users” better understand their specific usage and how it is impacted by their rate plan.

With the launch of Bidgely’s updated web portal solution, modern utilities can now provide consumers with access to a fully-personalized suite of digital engagement tools: web portal, mobile app, SMS, and email.

Consumer Wish List: Itemization

Modern utilities are undergoing a transformation: no longer are they thinking of their customer base as “ratepayers”; they are instead viewing them as consumers, and focusing on providing them with value-add services above and beyond the delivery of electrons. In light of this transformation, Bidgely surveyed 1000 consumers from across the US, asking them about features they’d most like to see from their utility:

If your electric utility could offer you one of the following, which would you prefer?

  • Breakdown of your energy usage by appliance – 46%
  • Home audit to improve energy efficiency – 26%
  • Marketplace of energy efficiency products – 18%
  • Concierge for energy efficiency retrofits – 10%

Many utilities are enamored with marketplace solutions to generate additional revenue and drive engagement; however, consumers have their eyes elsewhere. As shown above, both appliance itemization and home audits are preferred by consumers – by a large margin – over a marketplace solution.

These results are music to our ears at Bidgely. Not only are we the industry leader in appliance itemization, but our recently-launched V3 Platform [link to press release] has a new home assessment and audit solution, which is currently being used by major utilities in the US.

Looking forward, as modern utilities continue to bring the consumer into focus, Bidgely is well-positioned to be their go-to choice for consumer engagement and delight.

“I wish this survey were longer,” said NO ONE EVER!

We surveyed the field (sorry, couldn’t help ourselves) and decided we could do better. With Bidgely’s module for online audits, surveys, and home assessments, we’ve reimagined a solution by injecting a little disaggregation. How does that make a difference? Let’s count the ways:

  1. Improve take up rates: It’s a lot easier to encourage people to take a survey when you’ve already engaged them (which disaggregation is great at doing!).
  2. Increase completion rates: “I wish this survey were longer,” said NO ONE EVER! Improve take-up rates and completions via pre-filled questions.
  3. Dynamic updates: When usage patterns change, the Bidgely platform automatically identifies the changes instead of relying on the consumer to update their answers.

Field auditor tool: The field auditor version of the survey tool incorporates all the features field staff need. Integrated scheduling, offline mode, print or email a report, and even create personalized recommendations based on a combination of survey results and disaggregation data. It’s all there

Hitting the Right Note with Customers

As the old music saying goes, “the right note at the wrong time, is still the wrong note.”  To really strike a chord with customers, utilities need to focus both on content and delivery. That’s why, in addition to enabling utilities to provide valuable, personalized insights to their customers, we’re helping them communicate at the right time.

Alerts, a new feature in Bidgely’s V3 platform, increases meaningful customer touchpoints and helps utilities build engagement via multiple channels (email, SMS, push notifications). Alert types include:

Bill Projection
No one likes an unexpectedly high bill. Consumers appreciate getting an alert to an expected high bill while they still have time to act

Budget Alerts
For folks who like a little control, they can set a budget threshold to be alerted when they hit it

High Usage Alerts
Appliance malfunctioning and running continuously? We’ll send a high usage alert!

Don’t just energy-shame your consumers with a frowny face. Help them by pinpointing which appliance to focus on.

Available for all consumers, based on their appliance-level energy usage patterns

Customizable Offers
Consumers can enroll in programs or purchase items via a marketplace

The alerts can be configured by utility by channel and timing to optimize customer engagement and savings. It’s never been easier for utilities to be in harmony with their customers!

Flexible deployments: adapting to utilities’ needs

Integrating new engagement tools doesn’t have to be painful. Bidgely works closely with utilities to create a flexible platform deployment that complements your current solution.

Need a whole new turnkey solution? No problem. Need to put some frosting on your current assets? Piece of cake. Need something in between? We’ve got that too.

If you want a fully-delivered, turnkey solution, we’ve got you covered. We’ll host and serve the entire experience for your customers. Configured to your requirements and white-labeled with your branding, of course (we like being the “man behind the curtain”, so to speak!).

Or maybe you just need to give your current assets a dash of wow (how many times can one look at a frowny face?)  We’ll give you the data feed for you to embed itemization and insights into your existing web portal, email outreach, even paper bills!

If you want to embed the itemization and insights but want a little more guidance, we can provide the data via our API along with a design toolkit so your development team has what they need to do the work in-house.  

Reaching 100% of Homes

No smart meter? No problem!

While we love smart meters, we recognize the challenges utilities face in rolling them out to customers. So, that got us thinking: How can utilities serve all their customers, regardless of meter type? Introducing: Universal Disaggregation.

By leveraging machine learning, years of experience, and data from the millions of homes ingested into the Bidgely Platform, we’re able to bring the benefits of appliance itemization to non-smart meter homes ahead of full smart meter roll outs.

Over 700 million smart meters are installed globally, and most utilities have a mix of smart meters and analog meters in their service territories. Bidgely’s Universal Disaggregation leverages machine learning, the years of experience we’ve gained working with energy consumption, and data from the millions of homes ingested into the Bidgely Platform to extend itemization to homes without smart meters. Leveraging a database of over 50B meter readings from smart meters, Bidgely’s machine learning models extend itemization to non Smart Meter homes using a “matched peer” or a “matched region” approach. Combining the learnings from HVAC fingerprints on each home with learning from the model, an itemized energy bill is created with the 8-10 top energy use categories, including Base Load, Heating, Cooling, Pool Pump, Laundry and Cleaning, Entertainment and Computers, Water Heating, Cooking, and Other. The result is that 100% of homes can benefit from usage itemization and personalized energy insights from their utility, enjoying a consistent experience regardless of meter type. Universal Disaggregation is launching first in the US, with additional countries soon to follow. Finally utilities can incorporate the power of appliance itemization for deeper engagement–even for homes without smart meters. 

Australia’s United Energy Saw a 30% Peak Load Shift Without Hardware – Here’s How

United Energy (UE) is a leading utility company that owns, operates, and maintains a distribution network supplying energy to more than 640,000 customers in its service territory. During the summer months, they sought to reduce peak load among their residential customers but identifying cost-effective, scalable Demand Response methods to manage these events have proven challenging. UE have previously conducted trials with residential Demand Response programs where customers were notified by email and SMS of peak event times and rewarded for lowering energy use during the event times.

They sought an automated residential Demand Response solution that would provide the required peak-load shifting to avoid costly energy spikes, be scalable and cost-effective to implement.

The HomeBeat Solution – ActionDR

After evaluating a number of solutions, UE selected Bidgely’s HomeBeat app with its Demand Response function for the 2015/16 Summer Trial. HomeBeat leverages the Bidgely insights platform to analyze both home-area-network (HAN) and AMI smart meter data streams to disaggregate and identify usage patterns for specific appliances.

Specific to Demand Response, UE utilized the HomeBeat ActionDR solution, an engaging in-app function that communicates all DR event messages via mobile push and email notifications. The ActionDR solution employed key capabilities that leverage Bidgely’s mobile engagement platform:

  • Gamification  – Based on historic home energy use data, each home was provided with an individualized energy use goal for the peak event period
  • Real-Time Feedback – For homes equipped with high-resolution HAN devices, ActionDR provided real-time updates on how well the consumer was meeting their energy use goal
  • Performance-based Incentives – For homes equipped with high-resolution HAN devices, ActionDR showed the reward/incentive received as the consumer met each hour of their energy use goal, thereby keeping them engaged and motivated.




UE held four events during the 2015/16 Summer season, targeting peak usage from 4:00 pm-7:00 pm. The trial achieved an average peak load shift of >30% per user per event.

ActionDR Peak Shift


The above chart shows a peak shift event with ActionDR. The green arrow outlines the peak usage shift during event #2 – showing a reduction of about 30%. The orange arrow points out how effective ActionDR is at communicating an event to end-users. There is a clear break in trend right when the event occurs.

ActionDR Consumer Behavior – Focus on Air Conditioning

ActionDR_User Reaction1

ActionDR Consumer Behavior – Leave Home

ActionDR User Reaction2



United Energy is an example of a forward-thinking utility that wasn’t satisfied with the traditional Demand Response methods they had tried. Recognizing the opportunity for improvement, they decided to supplement their existing DR trial program with a new approach, and chose Bidgely as their partner. By utilizing the HomeBeat app and ActionDR solution, UE was able to leverage appliance disaggregation, gamification, and timely notifications to engage their customers around key peak-load shifting events, while improving customer engagement and satisfaction.