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Nov. 5: Carnegie Mellon Engineering Researchers Receive Grant To Improve Awareness of Electricity Consumption in Buildings

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Chriss Swaney
412-268-5776
swaney@andrew.cmu.edu

Carnegie Mellon Engineering Researchers Receive Grant
To Improve Awareness of Electricity Consumption in Buildings

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Lucio Soibelman, H. Scott Matthews and Jose M.F. Moura received a three-year $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to identify inexpensive ways to track energy consumption in buildings. Bosch Research and Technology Center North America (Bosch RTC-NA), the R&D arm of the global automotive, industrial, consumer goods and building technology supplier, will assist with the broad-based project to track energy consumption.

"This research grant gives us a timely opportunity to begin exploring electricity consumption on a variety of levels and to eventually develop tools to track the trends and patterns of energy usage and suggest ways to conserve," said Soibelman, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon.

The team is creating a framework for obtaining specific information about electricity use in homes and buildings.

"As household energy prices increased 70 percent between 2000 and 2007, we are committed to evaluating technologies that allow consumers better energy monitoring and efficiency. This is our goal in assisting the Carnegie Mellon researchers in this project," said Horst Muenzel, regional president of Bosch RTC-NA.

Carnegie Mellon researchers will use a series of residential buildings, including some operated by McKeesport-based nonprofit Blueroof Technologies, to test their new hardware and software tools for electricity monitoring.

"One of the great challenges for any energy conservation is to get the right data on how to use the technology, and this new research project is designed to do just that," said John G. Bertoty, executive director of Blueroof Technologies, which operates affordable senior citizen housing equipped with sensor networks and building automation systems to help monitor elderly residents throughout Pittsburgh.

One of the goals of the project is to develop low-cost and easy to install devices that could carefully monitor the overall consumption of the building and from that work infer the energy usage of individual appliances. The researchers plan to use the appliance-specific data to provide homeowners and building managers with suggestions on how to optimize their energy consumption and understand the effects of their energy-related decisions.

H. Scott Matthews, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, said the team is very excited by the project because getting information about energy use of buildings to owners is vital for the health of the planet.

As much as 40 percent of the total primary energy consumption in the U.S. is used to generate electricity. Almost 75 percent of that is consumed by commercial and residential buildings. Lighting and other easy to control home appliances, for example, account for approximately 20 percent of the electricity end use in this sector. Reducing electricity demands in current buildings, even by small amounts, can help achieve large energy-savings for the country.

"We aim to get some real-time data about how energy is used and consumed in a variety of structures and then use that data to help consumers make better decisions," Soibelman said. "Ultimately, we want to create products that will be practical for market use."

Researchers also plan to do a series of industry seminars and the publication of journal articles to broadcast their work.

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