This week, news of a new home electrification startup hit the wires.
Founded by former Google Ventures partner Rick Klau, Onsemble builds technology to convert electric water heaters into what the energy industry calls a virtual power plant (VPP). VPPs act as aggregators and coordinate between independent distributed energy resources (DERs), such as rooftop solar and electric vehicles, with the electric grid. While Onsemble won’t enable water heaters to generate energy like a solar panel on your roof, the company believes that connecting and coordinating your water heater with the grid will translate to significant savings.
It’s an interesting concept, one that is symbolic of a growing interest within Silicon Valley and the broader technology community around home electrification. This interest has been rising for years, especially in markets like California, where state and local governments have pushed regulations around the construction of residential and commercial buildings mandating electrification. But it goes beyond that, and much of the recent flurry of activity has been spurred by a flood of new money entering the market through rebates that are part of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Other startups that have ridden the home electrification wave over the past couple of years include Zero Homes, which partners with local municipalities to prove a decarbonization pathway roadmap for home electric users to help guide them towards home electrification. Another is QuitCarbon, which provides Bay Area customers with electrification roadmaps that outline the types of electric appliances for their home’s specific electricity infrastructure and help consumers navigate the home rebate process. Similarly, Elephant Energy partners with contractors to help install indication ranges, car EV charging stations, and heat pumps.
And then there’s Impulse Labs, a startup creating induction cooktops that incorporate a battery to help consumers transition to electric kitchens. By including a battery will enable those homes that aren’t wired for an induction cooktop – electric stoves can pull 40 amps at 240 volts after all – enables the homeowner to use one without having to rewire their homes or install a new electric panel. Impulse’s energy-storing cooktops will also serve as another energy storage node – or DER – on the electric grid’s network that can contribute to the collective VPP.
Of all the ideas, Impulse’s strikes me as the most innovative; it provides a solution that is not only about installation planning or falling in line with local building codes, but is an altogether new approach that helps both homeowners and the utility provider by putting a new kind of system (in the package of a conventional appliance) into the network.
There’s no doubt we’ll need more of these approaches as US homeowners, in particular, struggle to sever their strong addiction to gas heating and cooking. The installed base of gas stoves in the U.S. is massive, and there are significant financial and emotional attachments to cooking with fire. By embracing truly new alternatives that offer real benefits (financial and lifestyle), the kitchen electrification movement might actually stand a fighting chance