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UVA Researching Efficiency Technology

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Monitoring energy efficiency is a main part of recent research at UVA. Monitoring energy efficiency is a main part of recent research at UVA.

A group of University of Virginia researchers is working on a way to help you save a load of energy at home without making a bunch of upgrades.

The research is about redirecting the energy you are not using, and aiming it at the spots in your home where you need it. The technology - a series of sensors - would show you your energy use when you are there, when you are out, and when you simply walk from room to room.

UVA Assistant Professor Kamin Whitehouse is conducting some of the research in his own home. His home is wired with dozens of sensors; some monitor when he walks into a different room, while others can tell when he is using the microwave. It is all on display on a projection in his kitchen.

His studies show that when people are inside their house, they are only using 50 percent or less of the energy the home is generating.

"So most of the time they're wasting some fraction of the energy being used to heat or cool the house," Whitehouse explained. "If we can direct the energy that's being used more directly towards those people, we can reduce that energy cost."

Whitehouse says night time is a good example of how well the sensors work. He can direct energy to just his bedroom instead every room in the house.

Whitehouse says green improvements, like insulation and solar panels, can cost a lot for homeowners up front. It also takes time to see a return in the investment. Sensors, on the other hand, do not cost much - a few hundred dollars - and the savings can be measured instantly. 

Down the road, this research could also have applications for commercial buildings but right now the main focus is cutting back on a homeowner's heating and cooling costs.

UVA's Engineering School, the Darden School of Business and the School of Architecture are all working on the project. Part of the research is being funded by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Reported by Julie Bercik
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