Energy management and metering systems – what you need to consider

With energy costs continuing to rise and increasing levels of legislation to contend with, facility managers face a growing number of challenges. Cameron Steel reports on the key things to consider and the publications available that offer guidance.

Across all industry sectors, businesses use energy to carry out their everyday activities, from lighting and heating office spaces through to powering machinery and manufacturing processes. Power wasted adds no value, but improving energy efficiency can dramatically affect operating costs and productivity levels.

Energy costs can significantly impact on a business’ profit margin, but according to the Carbon Trust, simple measures can effectively reduce operating costs and energy bills by as much as 20 per cent.

The responsibility of improving operational energy efficiency often rests on the shoulders of facility managers. Therefore, they are looking for new ways that allow them to not only become more resource efficient, but also save money, meet corporate social responsibility goals and fulfil legal compliance requirements.

Developing a robust energy management policy

When it comes to developing a robust energy management policy, facility managers must start by gaining a good understanding of legislation. It is key to recognise which standards they need to consider and which definitions they must understand.

Legislation may appear to be little more than a burden to business, but the majority of them have been developed to encourage businesses to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, in turn improving energy efficiency and costs. There are several standards that deal with energy efficient systems and also a growing requirement underpinned by EU legislation to have an assessment of what energy use a business has. This will naturally evolve into showing how energy is being managed and if its use is being reduced.

Although current UK legislation doesn’t force organisations to act upon such assessments, it is a great opportunity for facility managers and the business in general to identify wasteful use of energy and projects that could lead to operating cost savings through more efficient use of energy.

A key operational standard for facilities managers is ISO 50001, which provides the basic framework and tools for energy management. Other documents from various organisations provide further guidance on key responsibilities, policy, strategy, planning, implementation and auditing. These include the IET Guide to Energy Management in the Built Environment, several Carbon Trust documents and publications from other organisations designed to ensure businesses are fully compliant with energy legislation, improve understanding of pricing structures and operational efficiencies and develop improved resilience.

With the knowledge such guides provide, facility managers can feel confident in developing a robust energy management policy and choosing the best possible system for their business.

The importance of energy metering

Metering is also a key component of any energy management programme. Knowing exactly where and when energy is used is vital in order to have its use analysed properly and improvements suggested.

An energy meter strategy is a fundamental part of this and understanding whether sub-metering is simply to keep an eye on the demands of certain key departments or whether there is fiscal charging required with energy bills for tenants.

Other higher specification meters for electrical systems can highlight inefficiencies caused by power factors and harmonics. Meters that can be connected to building information systems, such as building energy management systems (BEMS), can also provide real-time information on energy use, highlighting anomalies or irregular patterns of energy use.

For those with little experience of metering systems however, common issues can arise around ensuring a solution is fit for purpose and understanding meter readings. Thankfully, a number of guides and checklists are now available to help facilities managers navigate these murky waters, including the IET’s Guide to Metering Systems. This, amongst other things, runs through the key steps to applying non-fiscal metering systems as well as integration of metering data into management systems.

One size does not fit all

Energy management needs to be suitable for each organisation – one size certainly does not fit all. Every business is different and changes over time. Energy management plans need to be dynamic and constantly reviewed. The plans should be robust enough to cater for current needs and nimble enough to respond to changing demands too.

How energy management is undertaken within a business depends on the type of organisation and lifecycle of the installation. However, the heart of success lies in communication across the business.

The buck may stop with facility managers, but within the workplace we all have degrees of responsibility. Therefore, there is a growing need to increase the level of understanding and application of the term ‘energy management’ within organisations, and have buy-in from senior management and staff. This makes it possible to apply relevant good practice across the business and promote efficient and effective working practices.

 To find out more about IET Standards publications developed to support facilities managers, please visit


Flex it or fix it? It depends on your appetite for energy risk

Ben Archer, Head of Risk Management, Gazprom Energy

Given the recent volatility of wholesale energy costs, it’s important that organisations choosing a new energy contract reconsider what type of deal is right for them. Figures from ICIS Energy found that gas prices ranged from over 80 pence per therm in 2013 to just over 30 pence per therm in 2016. As customers feel the impact of these price fluctuations it raises the question of whether to take a risk averse approach with a fixed rate contract, or alternatively consider a more closely managed flexible contract approach.

Choosing a fixed contract means keeping your energy costs static and predictable for the contract duration – typically one to five years – regardless of what happens to market prices. On the other hand, a flexible contract means buying gas based on your demand or when the price suits you. With a flexible contract you can forward buy (hedge), or simply let a published market index determine your price, which allows you to make the most of low current and future energy prices if they occur. In comparison, fixed contracts mean being able to budget for energy with certainty, knowing for sure how much you’re paying from one month to the next.

Both approached offer opportunities and benefits for the customer whether that be cost certainty or a savings opportunity. What’s important is to consider your business model and risk profile to make an informed judgement on which route to go down.

For instance, would it be able to pass the costs to customers to maintain profitability? The benefits of taking a risk should be considered too, such as the opportunity to save costs by strategically buying energy under flexible terms.

The finance or procurement manager can establish how the organisation would fare should the price of energy go up or down by the amount it has fluctuated previously. A business with strict budget controls when it comes to energy may not have a business model that could support such a price rise. A fish and chip shop owner, for example, may simply not be able to cope with energy prices higher than their current value, and opt for a fixed deal. Price certainty and peace of mind could be just what some businesses are satisfied with, even if energy prices drop. However, if an organisation is prepared and able to buy in line with changing market prices to get cheaper energy than it perhaps would with a fixed contract, it might find a flexible contract a worthwhile option. Although more risky, it could save money in the long-term.

Risk appetite isn’t the only factor involved in choosing an energy contract; the human resource available to manage energy buying should come into it too. Other than checking that energy bills are accurate and based on contracted rates, fixed contracts require minimal input or resource. However, managing flexible contracts is a strategic purchasing activity. With a flexible contract, energy buying needs to be planned around market rates and trading conditions that best suit the organisation. This can be carried out in-house, but only with an in-depth understanding of the market. An internal procurement department may have the necessary knowledge, in which case you might not require additional personnel. But to reap the full benefits of a flexible energy contract, organisations might choose to take on a dedicated energy manager, or consult with an independent energy specialist or the procurement desk within their energy supplier. These people specialise in tracking the market and buying energy accordingly.

Whether they select a fixed or a flexible energy contract, organisations can use the market to their advantage. But it is important to decide which approach to take by considering the business model, resources and financial position before deciding. It’s also key to establish whether budget certainty is more important, or if the ability to utilise a dip in prices is a priority for energy buying. Only then can a confident decision be made about which option is most suitable.


How we saved Hertfordshire taxpayers £1m by reducing energy and carbon costs dramatically

James Heslam, Hertfordshire County Council Energy Manager

“Like many councils, Hertfordshire County Council was under pressure to make savings to protect front line services and to reduce our carbon footprint. In 2010 a Carbon Reduction Tax (CRC) was introduced, adding to the cost the council was paying for its energy usage.

Four years ago we set ourselves a goal to reduce our carbon and energy usage by 15% before 2018. But to our delight, we exceeded this target by three per cent – two years early. During this period, we have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide we are using by over 5,000 tonnes resulting in a saving of £1million for Hertfordshire taxpayers.

Following this successful carbon reduction, the county council is now set to hit an even more ambitious target by bringing the total carbon reduction to 24% by April 2018.

So how did we do it?

Armed with a tight budget, we embarked on a programme of carbon reduction across our corporate estate. The council has around 150 properties and I was aware through use of our AMR (Automatic Meter Readings) that the heating and cooling systems in the larger sites in particular were not operating efficiently.

After discussions with our facilities management contractor and sustainability consultant, we were able to make significant savings by improving the operation of our heating and cooling systems and our building management systems controlling them.

Soon I realised that we needed to extend this approach across to the rest of our estate; our libraries, fire stations, day centres and youth buildings. This was a challenge: every building was different with varying heating systems and controls. But we knew that small tweaks – even in the more basic buildings – could reduce energy consumption significantly.

For example, we found that typically boilers would be operating permanently when often it would be sufficient for them to only be doing so during working hours and for a small optimised time before hand. We introduced outside air temperature hold-offs which enabled boilers to switch off when the outside air temperature went above 15 degrees. We optimised the demands on boilers while they were in operation by linking this to the outside air temperatures and internal temperature set points we wanted them to achieve.

We realised that high consuming chillers were kicking in rather than making use of the cool air outside, using up a lot of electricity. So we began to automatically switch them on only when the temperature went above 17 degrees. By doing this, we ensured that chillers and boilers never came on at the same time – saving energy.

We introduced energy management policies such as office temperature ranges of 20-25 degrees and removed supplementary heating from our buildings which would interfere with the heating and cooling systems whilst adding to the energy bill.

We got the basics right in the first year and then we started rolling it out to the other parts of the estate in the second year, which took quite a long time. It was a juggling act as we were also trying to carry out LED upgrades throughout our properties. The work required a common sense approach coupled with technical expertise for some of the more complex items at larger sites.

We also introduced a few separate individual technical projects running alongside these activities, such as introducing hydro-zip taps across our main sites and a pre-cooling project in our Stevenage office, in which IT server rooms are cooled using air from outside rather than air conditioning units.

This is only the beginning

Now we’ve got our energy demand right down through the heating and cooling systems work, we also need to make sure through use of our AMR data and working with our technical teams that we maintain the high standards we have set. We also need to look at other opportunities to reduce our energy consumption, there are lots of things out there we can invest in, such as heating and cooling plant upgrades, insulation or renewables, but we need to look at those options and decide which are the most realistic to deliver.

Our LED programme remains a work in progress – we’ve still got more buildings that we need to look at but we’re at the point now where we need to be looking into the next steps in terms of capital investment opportunities.

The biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge of this work has been striking the balance between maintaining comfort levels in buildings, and keeping stakeholders on board while eliminating waste. We’ve managed to deal with any problems we’ve had along the way and deliver the project, while meeting stakeholders’ expectations.

Delivering a project of this magnitude requires three key assets. Attention to detail, perseverance and a diplomatic approach! I was also very lucky to have support from management on the project to allow me to pursue certain ideas and implement policies.

I’ve certainly learnt a lot about dealing with people and handling difficult situations, in addition to the many technical aspects of energy management.”

Five top tips:

  • Check the basic timing and temperature control of the building heating systems
  • Look at the more detailed aspects of the heating and cooling plant and make sure it is working properly
  • Regularly monitor the building through use of AMRs to make sure that what you put in place has not been changed
  • Look at the lighting in the building to make sure that it is LED
  • Consider any investment-based projects you might need to look at, focusing on the best return on investment

Boat firm lets Energy Management take the strain

Steve Retford from Energy Management LLP is proud to announce that popular holiday boat hire company Sally Narrowboats has renewed its contract with the Wiltshire-based company after achieving savings of over 10 per cent on its energy usage in the last 12 months.

As well as powering a 26-strong fleet, Sally Narrowboats offer a full repair and maintenance service for passing traffic on the Kennet & Avon Canal at its dry dock facility in the picturesque Bradford-on-Avon Marina.

Sally Narrowboats General Manager Mark Fraser says seeking external help in energy management has brought about noticeable benefits to the company, and not just financial.

“Thanks to the energy efficiency measures put in place by Energy Management, we have reduced our energy usage by 10.3 per cent over the last year.

“Energy Management assisted us with some upgrade works in our office space and in the workshop and warehouse as well as helping us negotiate the best possible deals with energy suppliers.

“Originally, we had standard light bulbs installed in high-level fittings that constantly needed changing and were troublesome to get to because of their location. We’ve since had LED lights fitted, which have a five-year lifespan, and less time is now spent on maintenance.”

Energy usage can amount to a third of a company’s overall bills, yet, in the experience of Energy Management CEO Retford, an engineer with over 25 years of industry experience, there are obvious areas where savings are achievable.

For example, as many as one in five invoices seen by Energy Management over the last two decades have been found to be inaccurate. These errors typically can result in an increase of 3-5 per cent of business energy bills.

“Invoice validation is one of our core services. Whether it’s down to inaccurate meter readings, wrongly applied correction and volume factors or CCL and VAT charges, customers often pay more than they should for their energy.  Our invoice validation service uses a thorough invoice-checking system that shines a light on any errors, so that action can be taken to recover any overcharges as quickly as possible.


Schools benefit from SPIE’s Energy Management initiatives – saving over £1 million in energy costs during first four years.

SPIE UK is delivering a high quality Facilities Maintenance (FM) service to over 70 schools in the UK across numerous private finance initiative (PFI) contracts. Located in the catchment areas of Scotland, Liverpool, Wirral, Salford, Manchester, Halton and Kirklees, West Yorkshire, these schools feature a range of facilities with energy management and improvement a priority. Already in the fifth year of 25-year term contracts, SPIE has saved many of these schools over £1 million in energy costs. These savings can be attributed to a bespoke, remotely managed energy monitoring and Building Management System (BMS).

SPIE combines energy performance and system controls, delivering a proactive approach that’s co-ordinated with our central team of engineering and energy experts. This expertise supports our operational teams at each facility, with Facilities Management (FM) services extending right across these diverse contracts – often covering infrastructure and asset management including caretakers, swimming pools, engineering systems, energy monitoring and building management systems. Our engineers work alongside a central team of energy experts to provide clients with proactive energy specialists who carry out daily checks, adjustments and problem solving across many of the school buildings. This information is then used to change or modify system operations accordingly to improve building energy performance, whilst also setting targets for future improvements.

Moreover, by closely aligning energy monitoring with BMS operations, our team can log performance, establish trends and quickly identify any operational issues that need to be resolved.

Many of the PFI school contracts also feature a range of performance management reporting and benchmarking tasks, carried out by our Central Engineering Team, working closely with our local maintenance teams. These include water consumption data collection, energy and water use analysis, weather monitoring, target setting, meter reading and ‘in use’ analysis reconciliation, as well as BMS monitoring & scheduling, plus site visits for audits and reviews of systems and buildings.

Sustainability-related benefits are being delivered across these PFI contracts, with improvement plans resulting. One contract in particular, representing eight high schools and a primary school, has saved 384 tonnes of CO2 over a two-year period (2012-14). This is the equivalent of a standard car driving nearly 900,000 miles.

There’s so much more that has yet to be achieved, including better connectivity to off-site monitoring, integration of expertise and reinvesting energy savings into new facilities. Our latest innovation features a plant refurbishment service that will improve life cycles, increase efficiency and minimise cost/operational disruption.


eSight Energy are named in Top 10 Energy Management Software Review

An independent review conducted by Business Energy highlights eSight Energy as one of the top 10 Energy Management Software Providers.

Within the review it is highlighted that eSight Energy is global therefore it is perfect for an international company as well as being ideal for smaller businesses as the software is scalable for those who cannot justify a large system.

Other aspects of the software highlighted are the web-based nature of eSight, meaning it can be accessed anywhere and its worldwide capabilities to work with multiple currencies and cultures.

The author, Alex Loijois, states that, “eSight directly converts a company’s consumption data into monetary units, making it easier to digest. One thing that really sets it apart is its ability to set up a revenue contract, which is meant to be used in tenant billing… A global company could probably take advantage of eSight’s international data focus.”

To read more please visit


BoilerMag Commercial Boiler Filters Save Hotel Heating Systems for County Durham Installers

County Durham based MPUK Mechanical Services Ltd has recently installed several BoilerMag XL commercial boiler filters in 2 large hotels in the UK.

At one hotel in York, the company was faced with two four year old 150 kw boilers, one of which had failed completely, and the other extremely inefficient and due to fail imminently. Both boilers were completely full of black sludge that had built up over a number of years as a result of being connected to the old heating system. Two brand new boilers were fitted, including two BoilerMag XLs.

At another hotel in Edinburgh, MPUK again installed a BoilerMag XL on a new 60KW boiler, housed in a boiler room and connected to a towel radiator circuit heating 40 of the hotel’s en-suite bathrooms.

Again, the heating system was heavily contaminated with black sludge and difficult to flush, but the company is confident that the BoilerMag XL filter will prevent contamination in the future, keeping the system free from sludge and working efficiently.

“When I receive plant room drawings or heating alterations, the BoilerMag XL is my filter of choice,” says MPUK Heating and Gas Director Wayne Peel. They are a very well made, solid unit, and you can feel the quality when unpacking them from the box. They are also very straight forward to install and reasonably priced.”

Plumbing and Renewables Director Alex McAlinden added: “I would 100% recommend this product to other installers and to the M&E consultant we work with. The BoilerMag XLs are easy to maintain and give installers and customers the assurance that their plant room boilers will be running at their full capacity under heavy use. We’ll be returning to the York hotel soon for a follow up, so it will be great to go back and see some positive results.”


Keep your energy supplier onside and avoid unexpected bills

Energy broker, Kevan Enticott, explains how to avoid the headache of unexpected energy bills for your business, and the consequences of not doing so for years to come.

The overriding reason for an unexpectedly high electricity or gas bill for a business, is a failure to provide any meter readings to the energy supplier, says Kevan.

If your energy supplier doesn’t receive meter readings for your premises, then they have no choice but to estimate the meter readings on every bill they send you. What happens if they underestimate your readings? Every month you allow them to do so, you are placing your business more and more in debt. Many businesses have come to us over the years with bills they are struggling to pay off because no meter readings have been provided for a year or more.

We don’t complain when the energy bills for our business are low

And here lies the problem. We don’t complain when energy bills are lower than expected. You may not even check the bill to ensure all is in order – although on receipt of a large bill we are straight on the phone to the supplier to see what is going on.

It is usually the months (or years) of smaller, underestimated bills that result in the large bill we call our energy company about. They have finally taken a meter reading, and this has resulted in a ‘catch up’ bill which is now putting pressure on your company finances.

There are no set rules to state whether the customer or supplier has the responsibility to take meter readings at a business premises. You cannot rely upon your energy company to chase you for a meter reading. Therefore, take ownership yourself and give your energy company regular meter readings.

Do you know if your energy bills are based on estimated readings?

A simple check of your electricity and gas bills when they arrive will avoid all these issues, saving you time, aggravation and money.

A bill based on estimated meter readings, should clearly highlighted on the first page. You can also check the page with the meter readings. An ‘E’ next to the reading will indicate an estimated reading.

The smart meter rollout

Most businesses are aware of the government smart meter rollout, to be completed by the end of 2020. These will instantly solve the issue of estimated bills.

However, it is not always that easy to get a smart meter installed. It can depend on the supplier and where in the country you are situated.

Some energy companies have started to contact customers to arrange smart meter installation for their business. They will generally target customers in a few areas of the country at a time. By waiting for your energy company to contact you, the installation will be free of charge. It depends on the supplier, but if you were contact them to request an installation, you can generally expect to be charged for it.

Please note that many suppliers are not yet installing smart meters for multi-rate meters. Or for three phase meters. It is also worth checking whether the smart meter you have asked for will be compatible with other suppliers. Some energy companies we have spoken to have advised that other suppliers will not be able to access the data on their smart meters – an issue if you want to switch to another supplier in the next year or two. Although in this situation they can still be read as a standard meter. When these suppliers start to install the next generation of smart meters, switching supplier will not be a problem.

Long-term consequences of estimated readings

Until you can get your hands on a smart meter, please ensure you provide regular meter readings to your energy supplier. Ideally every month, but at least quarterly. This forces your supplier to invoice your business up to that reading, ie. for the electricity or gas, you have used.

Failure to do so, could leave you in a lot of debt to your energy supplier, with further implications still. For example, at the end of your contract even if you find a better price with another company, your current supplier will object to the transfer if you owe them money.

A large debt can affect your credit rating, and therefore limit the suppliers who will offer you an energy contract. We have even seen cases where a company’s energy supplier has objected to the transfer away, but has also refused a fixed rate contract based on the poor credit score, leaving their customer on higher, out of contract rates.

For more advice, you can contact Kevan Enticott on 020 3372 6517.


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VMU-Y makes a piece of cake out of multi-site energy management

Carlo Gavazzi presents a no annual fee solution

For many organisations the key to successful energy monitoring is flexibility and as such a solution which provides the ability to monitor a single site or multiple sites and installations via a gateway is essential.

But the ability for this solution to be scalable is also a major benefit for companies large and small because it enables their energy management system to evolve with the company.   Carlo Gavazzi’s VMU-Y EM is one such solution providing all the benefits of a multi-site solution without ongoing costs.

The newly launched VMUY-EM enclosed in a compact 2-DIN module and allows the user to aggregate information from up to 10 VMU-C EM units within a single centralised interface. This effectively allows you to monitor up to 320 meters and access the information from any PC using a standard web browser with no recurrent annual fees.

All data can be viewed through the web browser which uses a highly interactive software interface, providing exportable data from selection of AC, DC and environmental variables in either xls or csv format.  Alarms and warnings are logged and automatically emailed allowing for immediate action.

Complete with an impressive 32GB on board data storage which is substantial enough to store up to 30 years of historical data.  To help minimise costs, VMU-Y allows estimations of the monthly costs based on the energy monitored which is calculated by its embedded dual tariff.

For more information regarding Carlo Gavazzi and its range of products, please visit the website:


User acceptance of the smart home

Global business communities have set energy efficiency as one of their major goals and building automation is a key factor in the drive for more sustainable energy use. Numerous related products and solutions already exist on the market, increasingly also for the smart home. However, although these solutions achieve enormous savings of up to 30 percent, they have not yet become well established among the general public. An important component is missing: user acceptance. Flexible, intuitive and automatic systems are needed to change this situation.

By Armin Anders, Vice President Business Development and co-founder, EnOcean GmbH

The much touted intelligent networking capability of the smart home currently founders on the fact that the automation solutions use different standards for individual disciplines, are manufacturer-specific and above all, wired solutions can only be upgraded with a great deal of effort. As a result, consumers find it difficult to choose the most suitable system from a highly fragmented assortment. Furthermore, until now, they have only rarely seen added value in a smart home, since the ideal coordination between the individual components, and thus the actual intelligence, is still lacking. This means that the smart home has not yet been widely accepted by the users.

Manufacturer-independent approach

The industry however is beginning to rethink its approach and increasingly, suppliers are finding ways to combine products, standards and disciplines into an integrated solution. This willingness to work together enables open systems that connect the products of different manufacturing partners. Customers can choose from a wide range of different solutions, all of which communicate with the same control unit. As a result, all components across all standards can be controlled with a single app.

Wireless makes for easy installation

Most consumers would like to be able to install a start-up system easily by themselves and therefore, more and more wireless systems are replacing classic cabled solutions. The solution is wireless technology, which makes it possible to flexibly place, network and upgrade the individual components. Even existing buildings can be upgraded with a minimum amount of effort and thus save complex conversion work. Modern solutions also work without batteries. “Energy harvesting” allows small energy converters to generate electricity for sensors, switches and actuators from the immediate surroundings, using movement, light and temperature differences as energy sources. These devices completely eliminate the onerous and frequently impracticable need to change batteries.

Multifunctional, self-learning solutions

The products are further developing with the use of modern technologies such as energy harvesting wireless technology with the goal of achieving high user acceptance. Thus, solar-based wireless sensors can now map different functions and simultaneously measure temperature, brightness and moisture in a room.

Such multifunctional sensors often form part of self-learning systems that automatically adapt to the users’ living habits as well as to various parameters. A great example of this is an intelligent individual room solution, in which a sensor detects the current room temperature as well as the presence of people. As a result, the solar-operated sensor identifies the times at which a room is used over the long term and automatically generates an individual usage profile. The sensor sends this information wirelessly to an energy-autonomous, thermostatic radiator valve, which regulates the room temperature according to demand.

Intelligence makes for real added value

Advanced systems use special algorithms in the central controller. These algorithms process the data of the sensors distributed throughout the home as well as information available elsewhere, such as online weather data, in order to adapt the entire automation system to the individual habits of the people living in the home as well as changing external factors. Linking the different parameters and disciplines gives the users significant added value. They benefit from substantial energy savings and comfort functions that adapt to their individual needs without the users having to surrender control.

Data protection

Cloud platforms now exist that integrate the different applications for controlling lighting, heating or blinds, together with energy harvesting wireless sensors, actuators and mobile devices. In this case as well, the system processes all data in real time, takes the building properties into account and processes complex automation scenarios in the cloud background, depending on the situation.

Even with all this intelligence, data must still be protected. To keep the personal information secure, control centres transmit the data in encrypted form. Users can also determine at any time whether and which data they want to store in the cloud and which data should be stored locally in the home’s control centre.

Free choice for real smart homes

These manufacturer-independent systems give the user a free choice of products, and the central controller converts the complexity of the different technologies into easy and intuitive operation. Thanks to energy harvesting wireless technology, the sensors are maintenance-free, easy to install, can be relocated at any time and be upgraded at a later date. The result is a true smart home that seamlessly integrates comfort, energy savings and security into everyday life without requiring the user to deal with technology.