Pooled Energy has created an IoT device to automate pool systems and reduce home energy costs
If the last few years are any indication, Australia’s headed towards a blisteringly hot summer later this year.
Bureau of Meteorology stats mark the last three years as having been within the top five warmest years on record for Australia, with 2014 coming in at third, 2015 at fifth, and 2016 as fourth. It’s as if each year seems to be fiercely competing with the last for a higher ranking in a warmth competition – or, you know, it’s climate change.
Regardless of one’s stance on the matter, the fact is that Australians crave a relief to the heat, which typically comes in the form of a cold drink, powerful air conditioning, and/or a beach.
Also in demand, particularly for those who live some distance away from the coastline, are pools, which – despite the questionably high base cost – feature in 16 percent of Sydney homes, 17 percent across regional Queensland, and 18 percent in Perth.
However, despite their merriment, pools require a lot of power, and can often take up a hefty 40 percent slice of a household’s total energy usage.
Aiming to help reduce the energy consumption for Australia’s 1.4 million-plus pool owners is Sydney-based startup Pooled Energy.
Through a set of internet-of-things (IoT) devices which attach to a pool’s system, the startup is able to drastically reduce the energy consumption of a household pool, reducing it to roughly 10 percent of a household’s total energy usage.
The IoT devices work by automating a number of a pool’s core functions that consume the most power, including chlorination and other chemical maintenance, as well as cleaning. Pooled Energy also serves as an electricity provider for a pool-owner’s household, with the IoT kit included in a package.
John Riedl, the startup’s CEO and cofounder, who at the time of founding the business had recently retired from serving as CEO in another business, developed the concept for Pooled Energy after he became concerned about the “energy situation in Australia”.
“I got together with a few other senior business leaders who were concerned about it as well. So we’ve been together for about seven years, the first four spent on research and development [R&D] and the last three and a half on full operation,” said Riedl.
Funneling approximately $20 million into R&D efforts, the startup developed the IoT pool automation kit, which would serve not only to reduce the energy consumption for pool owners, but also reduce the strain pools hold on the energy grid too.
Riedl explained that Australia holds two huge power stations which are dedicated to cleaning swimming pools, who together have the equivalent energy output of “half the state of Victoria”.
“So our objective is to really get rid of one of these power stations by improving the energy efficiently and giving those savings back to the pool owners, then using the equivalent of the other one as a discretionary load in the grid, where we can help stabilise the grid,” he said.
“The simplest example of that is what we did about eight weeks ago, when the state ran out of power. [Since] we manage hundreds of pools, and the computer system saw the event coming, the system prepared the pools with chlorination, and when the event arrived we turned the power off to the pools. The pool owners didn’t even know, since their pools stayed in perfect condition.”
Riedl added that the act of preparing or “shifting” household technologies for events in the grid is something that’s unrealistic.
Taking household lights for example, it’s unreasonable to leave homes in the dark to reduce the strain of the grid. On the other hand, switching off another power-hungry device such as an air conditioning will cause people to complain.
Pools, however, can be toggled on and off for a number of hours without many, or any, implications.
Purchasing and installing the IoT devices in a pooling system costs a flat $330, with a $67 monthly ongoing management fee. Pools have to first be checked they’re “suitable” before installation, a process which itself takes roughly 20 minutes.
“We put in sensors, variable speeds for the pumps, and controls for all the devices in the pool. We also have our own chemicals that are used [with] the chemical monitor also automated,” said Riedl.
Like most IoT devices, the pool automation connects to a property’s local wifi, which bridges the technology to Pooled Energy’s back-end central operating system.
This system detects the water chemistry, the action in the electricity grid, weather, cost of power, and whether someone’s in the pool, before adapting to any changes. It’s also able to harness weather forecasts to optimise solar panel use, running the pool from the panel energy on sunny days.
With the startup currently active across Sydney, Pooled Energy users are also provided an app which can be used to override the control of any of the automated IoT devices around the pool; however Riedl said this override is rarely used by pool owners as the automated tools handle all of the work efficiently.
Despite this, Riedl said the startup is looking to develop additional features for the app, including a feature which shows the user how much they’re saving with the technology.
With the aim of further reducing the strain pools have on the electricity grid, Riedl added that the business will be focusing on expanding its technology to pool owners all over Australia.
Image: John Riedl. Source: Supplied.