Hestia Technologies Makes Energy Optimization Accessible to Homeowners Everywhere
The summer before her junior year at Hamilton College, Anna Mowat was preparing for a semester-length program in the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains at Hamilton College’s Adirondack Program when she received a list of potential research topics from her professor, Seth Major. Major, a theoretical physicist, had recently completed an energy retrofit of his house and had noticed a lack of online resources for homeowners to help measure their energy consumption and check whether they were optimizing their home heating systems. Mowat became intrigued and decided to pursue the project that Fall in the Adirondacks. Soon, the beginnings of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works’ newest member company, began to take shape.
Mowat’s goal was to model the heat loss experienced by a home given information easily accessible to the homeowner. To accomplish this, she set about writing a list of survey questions, which collected information about the homeowner’s geographic location, housing information, and most recent heating bill, among other things.
The information from the survey could then be plugged into Hestia’s proprietary model, which used advanced data science tools, as well as theories of climate factors like conduction, convection, and air infiltration (i.e. draftiness), to make recommendations on how homeowners could make their heating systems more efficient. The model also estimated the return on investment after making the recommended changes.
“Most of the existing models require knowledge that, say, an energy auditor would have,” said Mowat, who manages the company and the work of four part-time employees. “We wanted to build something that any homeowner could understand and use.”
After initially designing the survey on sheets of paper, the company is now focused on building a mobile application (currently in the prototype phase) that can record residents’ answers digitally within 15 minutes. Then, the app would make detailed recommendations for adjusting things like insulation, basement drafts, and ideal thermostat levels, in order to optimize heating efficiency. Based on data from residential energy textbook author, John Krigger, most homes can reduce their heating bill by at least 30 percent with modest adjustments to their house and/or heating system.
Hestia Technologies has only been a member of Rev for a short time, but the founders are no stranger to connecting with organizations that support entrepreneurship. After making headway through the Fall of her junior year, Mowat and her partners decided to enter Hamilton’s annual pitch competition.
“We thought what the heck, why don’t we enter, even if we didn’t expect to get anywhere in it,” she said. “But much to our surprise, and that of other people in the competition, we did win. We didn’t necessarily have the best pitch, but the judges said we had the most interesting proof of concept.”
The winning prize included one year’s worth of funding for legal and operational support, cash, and ongoing pro bono support. After graduating in the spring of 2018, Mowat gave herself a year to pursue the project further and decided to relocate to Ithaca.
“Ithaca offered a great mix of things,” she said. “It has access to the outdoors, a potential test market, a thriving entrepreneurial community, and an international community, which appealed to me as a Scotland-born, Hong Kong-raised individual.”
Hestia plans to launch its mobile application by the end of 2018 and build up a user base. If the app catches on as hoped, Mowat believes it is likely that Hestia will attract the attention of larger energy companies. In the meantime, she plans to spend her days hard at work at Rev, and occasionally in Syracuse at the Clean Tech Center.
“I was looking for a co-working space, because I’m less productive at home or in a coffee shop, and I loved the office environment at Rev,” she said. “It offers the right kind of structure for our company, and the mentoring system is really valuable for launching my startup.”