Making Oil Heat Count: Finding Thermal Efficiency with YShape’s HeatMeter

YShape’s HeatMeter is able to track energy consumption for oil and propane heat – a segment where reliable metering has been thin on the ground until now.

YShape’s HeatMeter is able to track energy consumption for oil and propane heat – a segment where reliable metering has been thin on the ground until now.

There aren’t a lot of times in my life that I have had to pay $1000 for a single bill. Yet that’s how much it cost to fill my heating oil tank in January 2012.  It’s a little hard to forget an experience like that, so when I heard about YShape’s HeatMeter a year later, I was naturally very interested.

For those who are interested in “energy efficiency,” there’s fascinating conflation going on. Though we talk about energy efficiency as a monolithic whole, most people pay for energy in two very distinct categories: electric and thermal. Tons of attention is paid to electricity, partly because the big electric utilities run major programs on energy (read: electricity) efficiency. However, in New England the biggest “energy“ expenses are actually on the thermal side: home heating.

If you’re heating with natural gas, you’re in luck – there are already gas meters measuring your consumption, you get a monthly bill summing up your use, and the price of gas is falling. However, if you have oil heat, your life is still frustrating. You don’t have a real meter, just the oil tank level gauge. You don’t get a regular bill, and if you do, it’s artificially levelized and doesn’t reflect changes in your oil usage.  Finally, the companies that sell you oil do not have coordinated programs for energy efficiency.

Accurate metering and consumption information is essential to proving out the value of energy-saving technologies and measures.

Accurate metering and consumption information is essential to proving out the value of energy-saving technologies and measures.

The problem goes beyond that massive, unexpected oil bill, too. One of the main energy conservation measures (ECMs) utilities will implement for you is a combination of insulation and air sealing. These are actually thermal measures, reducing the need for both heating and air conditioning. With these kinds of improvements, measurement is a key feature of savings because it allows a user (or contractor) to accurately identify the payback period and reason for investment. And in the summer, it’s easy to measure that impact: just keep an eye on your electric bill. In winter, however, you have no idea how much you’re saving simply because there is no good way to accurately measure your oil heat consumption.

And that’s where the HeatMeter comes in. This handy device magnetically attaches to your boiler or furnace, where it can detect the flame of your heating system turning on and off. It can then send this data to a computer or mobile device using your home’s WiFi network, giving you up-to-date consumption information anywhere, anytime. It’s a clever idea, addressing an aspect of energy efficiency that’s often lost in the shuffle, and one that’s already attracted attention from the likes of Forbes andEngadget.

YShape is currently wrapping up the last few days of its Kickstarter campaign. If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do with a HeatMeter – or want to get involved – why not take a look?

About author
I'm the former manager of Fraunhofer CSE's TechBridge program, dedicated to supporting the commercialization of promising new cleantech innovations. All opinions expressed are my own, and don't represent an official endorsement from Fraunhofer CSE or the Fraunhofer Society.
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