03.26.2014 - by Kirk Brown
Power Couples, the Sequel: How Connected Are You?

It’s not what you know, but who you know, right?

Actually, these days, it’s how well connected you are, isn’t it? Connected as in: using your smartphone or laptop to charge your car, check your solar production, control your thermostat and whatnot. According to a study from our new sponsor, SolarCity, a growing number of Americans are making clean energy purchases for their homes and using their electronic devices to automate their green lifestyle.

Plug In America’s president, Richard Kelly, has been driving on sunshine for more than a decade, pairing EV and PV (photovoltaic power) for a cleaner, way cheaper ride. That’s what matters most to Kelly. But other than that, he admits, he’s not very well connected at all.

“I refuse to buy an Android or a iOS phone,” says the Huntington Beach, California resident, “because they’re not truly open systems, so I use Linux for my mobile, but we’re a very small group of users. No company is writing apps for us. Luckily, many services are available on the Web. I use those and sometimes I write my own apps.”

Richard Kelly’s kids, Sofia and Raoul Kelly, bearing the EV Grin. They’re getting High Smileage by driving on sunshine.

Likewise, while newer solar technology allows lots of connectivity, Kelly’s system (purchased before SolarCity was born) is 10 years old. So, while it produces lots of clean, renewable energy, it doesn’t talk to anything else.

Nonetheless, Kelly does check his charge remotely. “We stopped for lunch on the way home from a short road-trip last week and I checked our state-of-charge using the Nissan LEAF owners’ portal on my phone. This isn’t breaking news, everybody does it. But it was complete before we ordered dessert.”

SolarCity customer Colin Summers of Santa Monica, California, is a long-time EV app-reciator. “My wife has been driving electric for over 15 years. Currently we have a Toyota Rav4 EV and a Chevy Volt, and we’re able to check their state of charge from our phone.” He takes it all quite a bit further than Kelly, however, starting with programming both cars to start charging at midnight when his power is cheapest.

“We have more WiFi hotspots than an Apple store, a smart thermostat from Nest and a backup power supply system on order from SolarCity,” Summers says.

Colin Summers son, Rudy, helps the family stay connected with their plug-in hybrid electric Chevy Volt, SolarCity system monitoring device, and Nest smart thermostat.

With an 8.4-kilowatt solar system on his home, Summers likes to check how much electricity his panels are generating through SolarCity’s SolarGuard® energy monitoring service, which is available online and as a phone app.

“It’s fun to see the output graph climb in August with the summer sun,” he says.

Derek Hydon’s connected homes in Pacific Palisades and Palm Springs with an electric car, solar panels and a SolarCity battery storage system that uses technology engineered by Tesla.

Derek Hydon, who has a Tesla Model S and SolarCity systems on his Palm Springs and Pacific Palisades homes, uses PowerGuide® – which measures home electricity consumption and solar production to better understand his family s energy consumption. Hydon checked it on a recent East Coast trip to find that his electricity consumption in Palm Springs had been unusually high, which seemed odd since no one was at home.

The solution? He checked the separate automated system that controls his home air conditioning and lighting to find that, somehow, lights had been left on. He remotely turned them off, and just like that, no more wasted money or electricity.

With a clear picture of his family s usage patterns and recommendations from SolarCity, Hydon can better manage his home energy usage patterns and save money. Solar output from the Hydon’s Palm Springs home is shown in Orange. “We generate about 5 percent more electricity from solar than our annual power usage, including my driving 12,000 miles a year in my Tesla Model S,” Hydon says.

Hydon also has a mobile phone app for his Tesla Model S. He occasionally uses it to find his car in the depths of a giant parking structure (“it makes the lights flash and horn honk”), but more often to cool the car’s interior.

“I’ll turn on the air conditioning two or three minutes before getting into the car, then it’s just the perfect temperature when I’m ready to drive,” he says. “It’s really fun showing people the app, it proves that the car of tomorrow is here now. For most people it’s like, ‘really, you can do that?'”

Says Kelly: I’m really jealous of those Tesla people, in more ways than one.”

If you haven’t already taken the plunge, see how much you could save by embracing the EV+PV lifestyle with SolarCity’s total energy costs calculator. Also, SolarCity recently partnered with Best Buy so that you can sign up for a free home evaluation in some 60 Best Buy locations in Arizona, California, Hawaii, New York and Oregon. For a full list of stores, visit www.bestbuysolarcity.com. SolarCity will give every customer a $100 Best Buy gift card, valid for any other purchase in the store, if they sign up for solar service through Best Buy before Earth Day (April 22nd, 2014). Even Jimmy Fallon is talking about it. Mean it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *