December 12, 2018

  By Rachel Jenkins, director of operations, Pecan Street

When Pecan Street launched ten years ago, we were laser-focused on electricity. And that focus guided how we built our research network. We spurred EV adoption and solar installation, and we got a lot of attention for the electricity insight we provided our participants and research partners.

But as we learned more about home electricity use, we also learned a lot about water use – namely, there were precious few products on the market that would provide us the kind of insight about water use as our equipment provides about electricity use.

So, thanks to funding from the State of Texas Emerging Technology Fund, we set out to develop a measurement and verification system for water use. The resulting water measurement tool, the BluBand has now been installed in 175 homes in our research network.

Designed by Pecan Street, the BluBand turns most legacy water meters into internet-connected smart meters.

There are a few BluBand features that could make it a game-changer.

  1. It works with old, legacy water meters. That means that utilities (or customers) don’t have to replace entire water meters for it to work.
  2. It’s water-proof and battery-powered, so it can be installed in most environments.
  3. It’s simple. It can be installed by customers. No plumbers are required.
  4. It’s incredibly precise.

That last item is the most important. Most water customers – residents and businesses alike – know how much water they used last month. But they don’t know what used that water, or when.

Pecan Street’s Participant Portal lets users see water use minute-by-minute, in near-real time. For example, the BluBand at my house showed me that I was “using” 1-2 gallons per hour all night long. It turned out to be a leaky toilet flapper (it turns out that leaky flappers are the most common problems and cheapest fixes for homeowners). Another participant located a broken valve in his irrigation system that resulted in soggy lawn and a water bill 10 times his normal amount.

The BluBand saved one Central Texas school 400,000 gallons and $2,500 a month and helped locate a leak that could have damaged the school’s foundation.

As communities around the country look for new and innovative ways to reduce waste and help customers better understand how they can reduce their water use, products like BluBand offer a simple and affordable solution. We look forward to sharing more water-saving stories as we find them.