Savraj Singh was intrigued as he watched the 2008 presidential candidates, each of whom stressed the importance of focusing on energy savings.
Singh looked for a phone app or an easy-to-use product that monitor his home energy usage in real time.
He couldn’t find one.
“I thought I could probably make this system, so I prototyped it at my house with my dad (Sutinder Singh),” said Savraj Singh, who earned his computer science degree from Princeton University in 2003.
Once Savraj and his father got the prototype working, they discovered they were using 1500 watts of electricity a day, or about $0.25 an hour, in the family’s home in Pennington.
Then it simply became a matter of trial and error to cut the family's energy usage.
Turning off the electric piano reduced energy by 400 watts a day.
Disconnecting an older model computer and replacing it with a newer one reduced energy by another 200 watts a day- about $25 a month.
“The software updates in 10 seconds,” Singh said. “You can immediately quantify your impact on the environment and how much money you’re spending right now and if you make any change, you don’t have to wait 30 days to see if you made any impact."
The prototype that Singh created with his father became Wattvision, a Princeton-based startup. Singh is chief executive officer and Diego Vargas is chief technology officer. Zack Garcia, 19, a junior at Princeton University studying computer science, also works with the company.
Wattvision has received some angel investor funding and in August, launched a successful online fundraising campaign through Kickstarter, raising $50,000 in just 30 days.
“A large part of the challenge for our space and industry is showing people why it’s important and why it’s valuable,” Singh said. ““If we didn’t reach our goal, it would be a lesson in we don’t have the right market or the right strategy.”
Once the company reached its $50,000 goal, it paid a 5 percent fee to Kickstarter. The remaining money will be used to fund the products next release, which is expected to ship in January.
Despite market competition, Singh says what differentiates Wattvision is its relatively inexpensive price tag (about $250) and simple for a home or business owner to set up. Wattvision’s sensor attaches to nearly all types of electrical meters and the software is easy to use on Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android.
The company also makes customized software, including a project for Princeton University to help in the university’s sustainability efforts.
Although Singh initially thought the product would appeal mostly to homeowners, he said it’s small businesses that have really gravitated to Wattvision.
He does not reveal Wattvision’s total number of customers, but says the product is in “hundreds of sites” across the country.
It’s a bit of change for Singh,ho once worked as a program manager for Microsoft in Seattle.
When I worked at Microsoft, my coworkers and I were always saying, ‘Is it Friday yet,’ but now that I’m doing my own thing, I’m saying ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Friday already?’ I know I must be doing something I enjoy.”