DTE app gives customers insight into energy consumption

Chidananda Kakunje heard a radio ad about four months ago for Insight, a free mobile app that DTE Energy offers to help customers track their home energy usage and save money.

The 45-year-old software engineer had bought a new house and decided to give it a try.

“The app is very convenient and shows daily usage,” the Northville resident said. “When you get a bill at the end of the month, you don’t know which days you’re consuming the most and which days you’re consuming less. Right? It helps to check trends and I can save money that way. energy.”

Your guide to an energy-efficient life

Technology has given homeowners like Kakunje a way to see how much energy they’re using daily and in real time. With the app, DTE customers can determine which devices consume the most energy. They can monitor when they are consuming the most electricity (and gas for gas customers) and adjust their habits and behaviors to reduce their electricity bills and help protect the environment.

“We wanted as a business to develop a new channel to communicate with our customers using mobile technology – that was one of the drivers,” said Emmett Romaine, Chief Development Officer. “A second was to create a space for customers to take full advantage of the implementation of our automated metering infrastructure; and a third was to create a program of support and energy efficiency efforts and help customers to save on their bills.”

DTE aims to add a budget tool to the app so that in addition to energy usage, it shows customers how much it’s costing them and sends alerts as they get closer to their monthly goals. He also hopes to make the app even smarter in the future, so the more it is used, the more customers save.

Additionally, the utility plans to turn the technology into a revenue stream by licensing other utilities.

Energy overview

DTE announced its energy efficiency app, which it calls Insight, just over a year ago.

At the time, the power company called the app a handy tool for customers with advanced electricity meters. It was developed by Royal Oak-based Vectorform in partnership with Saline Electronics and MAKS of Troy and can be downloaded for free on their Apple or Android smartphones.

It uses a secure link to track the amount of energy customers are using in kilowatt-hours every day every hour, as well as per week and per month.

He recommends energy-saving projects and has a feature he calls the PowerScan tool that lets customers check how much electricity is going through a power cord by holding the phone in front of them.

DTE also offers additional free plug-in technology – something DTE has called Energy Bridge – for tech-savvy customers who have requested it. The bridge, which is configured via a wireless connection at a limited distance from the smart meter, monitors energy consumption in real time. Every time customers turn something on or off, the power consumption goes up and down.

At present, only a small fraction of the 1.5 million households that could use the app do so – minus the 3% or around 43,000 households, the company said. And only about 17,000 customers requested the bridge.

The company said it expects downloads to increase as people learn about the app, but some experts said the low numbers could indicate customers aren’t ready for it.

“Think that’s a good thing,” Scott Ringlein, founding partner of the Energy Alliance Group of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said of the app. “But the general public? I don’t see them using it. We open the bill. We throw away the inserts and move on. Or we sign up for autopay.”

Ringlein’s concern: “Just because he’s there doesn’t mean he’s going to be used.”

Joel Miller from DTE Energy introduces the PowerScan tool, a feature of the DTE Insight app, when used with your smart device placed on a power cord, it can monitor electronic usage, at home model DTE in Detroit on Tuesday, October 20.  2015.

Play the game

While it seems counterproductive for a utility to give away a tool that incentivizes customers to buy less of the very product it seeks to sell, the app aims to help power companies meet regulatory mandates on energy conservation and cleaner energy standards, especially as demand increases.

“It’s a good tool,” said Philip Bartshe, 66, who lives with his wife in Ann Arbor. “If you want to set a goal and save money, you can.”

Moreover, DTE believes that if customers know how much energy they use, it will change their habits.

“It really helped us save a lot of energy,” said Anthony Boehm, who lives in Guangzhou with his wife and two young children and checks the app daily. “At first I didn’t use it much, but the more I used it the more I realized how much energy we were using, and that helped me a lot.”

Boehm, 28, estimated he cut his monthly energy use by about a third and saved more than $200 in one year.

“I never really realized how much electricity we were wasting until I started using the app and it opened our eyes,” he added. “I’m not looking to save the world, but if I can reduce my energy expenditure and reduce our impact on the environment, I will. I don’t like wasting things, not just money, but also resources. resources.”

For customers who love incentives, the app also assigns tasks and rewards customers who complete them by letting them play a game. In the game, customers aim to achieve higher and higher levels and in doing so , they are allowed to unlock features that allow them to customize their app avatar, a tiny house.

“I’m definitely more into real money,” said Adam Steinman, 33, of Ferndale, who said he downloaded the app earlier this year but lost interest after not trying it. only a few times. “There were some interesting things about it. I downloaded it. I played with it.”

The engineer said the app was more of a novelty to him than anything else.

DTE said it was considering adding a feature that would offer financial incentives.

DTE Insight Bridge box that helps monitor electronic usage in your home at Model DTE Home in Detroit on Tuesday, October 20, 2015.

Practical applications

Kakunje said that using the Insight app showed him how to make power-saving changes.

Through the app, he learned that he used the most electricity when he ran the air conditioner in the summer to cool his 3,400 square foot home. He revealed the amount of energy needed to charge his Ford vehicle. This inspired him to replace the 50-60 incandescent bulbs that come with homes with much more energy efficient bulbs.

And, he said, he teaches his son, 13, and daughter, 8, about energy conservation.

“It helps show them how to use energy efficiently, like turning off the lights,” he said.

When he first started using the app, he said, it showed he was using about 30 kilowatt hours a day. But since then, his family has been consciously trying to reduce this by 10%, 15% or even 25%.

The Real-Time Bridge tool, which he said he requested from DTE and tried, did not work for him because his smart meter was too far away to access it.

DTE said the bridge is working with most customers, and it will send technicians to homes to fix problems.

But, Kakunje described the app as a whole as “user-friendly”, with “nice features”. He said he wishes there was an app like this to help monitor his household water usage as well.

“Certainly,” he said, “it would be helpful for anyone to understand their power consumption habits.”

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or [email protected]


To use the app, you need an advanced electric meter, which has a digital display instead of dials and a blue and white label on the front. To download the app, go to the Apple store or Google Play. Once downloaded, you will need to register and create an account. You can order an Energy Bridge, an additional device that lets you see how much energy you’re using in real time, by requesting it through the app. It will be sent by post.

Energy consumption calculator

This online tool shows the average power consumption of various devices, so you can see how yours compares. Website: http://energy.gov/energysaver/estimating-appliance-and-home-electronic-energy-use

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