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The Aquanta turns your dumb water heater smart to save energy, H2O, and money

Going on vacation for Memorial Day? Unless your water heater is tankless, it’s going to waste energy making hot H2O for showers you aren’t going to take. If it was smart, though, you could just whip out your phone while lounging at the lake and turn it off for a couple days. That’s the promise of Sunnovations’ Aquanta, a retrofittable device that turns your existing water heater into a sophisticated, energy-saving machine.

We covered the Aquanta back when it launched an unsuccessful Kickstarter back in 2014. In the year and a half since, Sunnovations has been making improvements to it, inside and out. The small black box is now a small blue one, and the company also improved the user interface and control algorithms, CEO Matt Carlson tells Digital Trends. The Aquanta has been tested in hundreds of homes for about a year, too.

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“It turns out that water heater behavior and water-heating usage is actually incredibly complex, and I think that we’re safe in saying we’ve got probably the most robust data around water-heating energy usage, if not in the world, certainly in North America,” he said.

Aquanta-full-tank-view

Once you have the Aquanta attached to your water heater (ambitious DIYers can probably handle the project, but Carlson says most people will probably want a plumber’s help), it will start figuring out your hot water schedule. While you can treat it like a programmable thermostat and set it to start heating up water for your morning shower, the device can also learn this on its own through what Carlson calls AI, or Aquanta Intelligence. If you leave the house for nine hours every weekday, it won’t waste the energy making hot water. The scheduling feature will probably work best for you if your routine is somewhat irregular, though.

With the accompanying web app, you’ll get a monthly report showing you your hot water usage. You can also check the app to see how much hot water you have left if everyone else in the house just took lengthy showers, instead of being surprised by a chilly spray. But hopefully, Carlson says, your family will start taking faster showers once they see how much hot water they’re using.

“Our internal estimate is that you’ll be able to save  between 10 and 35 percent of water-heating energy,” he says. “The typical American household uses north of 2,700 kilowatt hours of water-heating energy a year, so for low-use households, we think we’re going to be able to save a meaningful amount of that.” He says the company should soon have the data to back that up when it gets results based on the test units.

The Aquanta is available for pre-order starting today for $149. It comes with a leak detector, which will alert you if your water heater springs a leak. When it starts shipping in July, Sunnovations hopes to also have the device integrated with a number of smart home platforms, though which ones have yet to be announced.

Sunnovations hopes the Aquanta will be the Nest of smart water heaters, but whether it takes off like the connected thermostat remains to be seen.