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Smart switch

Young startup creates first smart thermostat

Part of a special feature showcasing Memorial’s innovation ecosystem, a pan-university effort focused on supporting the development and success of innovators across Newfoundland and Labrador.  

By Susan Flanagan and Jeff Green

Joshua and Zachary Green are on a mission to provide innovative technology to help the world become more environmentally friendly.

In their quest to do so, the brothers have created a smart, Wi-Fi enabled, line voltage thermostat called Mysa – Swedish for comfort – through their company, Empowered Homes.

The device helps homeowners save money by allowing them to remotely control their heating systems.

Mysa displays a room’s current temperature and allows users to adjust the temperature from anywhere using their mobile phone, tablet, computer or the touch buttons on their thermostats.

Big business

The company is off to an incredible start with its product in high demand.

So far, they’ve sold 3,000 Mysa thermostats and plan to start shipping them next month.

The inside of an Empowered Homes Mysa Smart Thermostat showing the casing and heatsink fabricated by Technical Services
The inside of an Empowered Homes Mysa Smart Thermostat showing the casing and heatsink fabricated by the Department of Technical Services at Memorial.
Photo: Mike Ritter

“Our pre-order clients are coming from all over North America, with only 15 per cent being in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Zachary Green, who graduated from Memorial last year with a bachelor of engineering (mechanical) degree.

“We pre-sold 45 per cent of our thermostats in the U.S. market. They are typically pre-ordered for personal homes or vacation homes and cabins.”

The company is also gearing up to move to its own location on Harvey Road in the centre of St. John’s, after outgrowing space in the Genesis Centre and other locations on the St. John’s campus.

The company is a current client of the centre, Memorial’s award-winning business incubator for technology startups.

Maximizing savings

Designed to control electric baseboard heaters and fan-forced heaters, Mysa’s software maximizes energy savings by using machine-learning algorithms and big data to automate the homeowner’s heating schedule.

“Currently there is no truly smart thermostat for high voltage heated homes on the market. We aim to change that by year end.” — Andrew Murphy

The difference between Mysa and other products on the market is that Mysa integrates a friendly user interface with smart features and learning functionality.

Mysa also has an easy scheduling feature that senses when users are home and suggests improvements to the schedule over time to save even more energy.

Collaboration at its finest

“Tell Mysa what type of heating you have and it will take care of the rest,” said Andrew Murphy, director of marketing for Mysa.

“Currently there is no truly smart thermostat for high voltage heated homes on the market. We aim to change that by year end. For electric baseboard heaters, Mysa takes advantage of home heating zones to heat the right rooms, at the right times. Mysa can also adjust its heating algorithm to efficiently control fan-forced heaters.”

Mr. Murphy adds that the Mysa thermostat would not be at the point it is today without the collaboration of the Department of Technical Services, a unit within the Office of the Vice-President (Research).

Members of the Empowered Homes and Technical Services teams in front of the CNC (computer numerical control) machine. From left: Matthew Fudge, mechanical technologist; Technical Services; Zachary Green, co-founder Empowered Homes; Jason Stevans, project engineer, Technical Services; Bradley Hefford, machinist, Technical Services; Kon Yue, mechanical engineering student.
From left are Matthew Fudge, Technical Services; Zachary Green; Jason Stevans, Technical Services; Bradley Hefford, Technical Services; and Kon Yue, mechanical engineering student, in front of the computer numerical control machine in the Engineering building.
Photo: Mike Ritter

“Technical Services has been instrumental in rapid prototyping our plastic and metal parts,” he said.

“With their help, we went through six design iterations of our plastic housing. They also helped us design a custom aluminum heat sink and brass testing pins.”

Collaboration with Tech Services is a perk of being a Genesis client. The company participated in the centre’s flagship Enterprise Program, which helps entrepreneurs commercialize their ideas.

“Genesis provided advice, made countless introductions for us and provided a low-cost space to work out of for over a year,” said Mr. Murphy.

Innovative entrepreneurs

For his part, Rick Meaney, director of Technical Services, says he and his staff are always interested in supporting innovative ideas.

“It is highly rewarding to support such an enthusiastic and vibrant team and to witness the incredible progress made by Empowered Homes,” he said.

“Here at Technical Services we offer highly professional prototyping and product development support. By doing so, we hope young entrepreneurs such as Joshua, Zach and Andrew can focus their efforts and valuable resources on maximizing product functionality and gaining access to target markets. By accelerating the design cycle, Technical Services provides a competitive advantage for Memorial’s entrepreneurial community.”

Green technology

Mr. Murphy hopes that Mysa smart thermostats will be the first of many products offered by Empowered Homes to help the world become more environmentally friendly.

He also hopes the expertise of Technical Services will be available to the company in the future.

“The folks at Tech Services were very capable of understanding what we needed and had the heat sinks milled out of aluminum in a couple of days. This process helped us order 10,000 extruded heatsinks from China with confidence,” he said.

Zachary Green agrees.

“Because Tech Services was able to 3D print 20 different casing prototypes, we got the casing right the first time it was fabricated in China. Instead of it spending three weeks and $10,000 per mold to make cases from plastic, we were able to pay $20 per 3D printed case and have them within hours,” he said.

“3D printing services allowed us to quickly see the problems with our design and iterate quickly. I hope that Tech Services and Empowered Homes will have the opportunity to collaborate on many more innovative technologies that enrich lives through energy efficiency and conservation.”

Pre-order price is $100 per Mysa smart thermostat with discounts as the number of units ordered increases. More information about the company and its products is available online.

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