Reading this you’re probably consuming electricity. Your computer, the lights, heating or air conditioning. If you’re in your offices there are probably one or two things plugged in that you’re not using at the moment. At home it’s probably even worse… and when the only real visibility you have is your monthly bill it’s pretty tough to actually do anything about it.
Luckily there are a number of solutions starting to ramp up that will help the typical homeowner to get a better understanding of what’s happening in their house in real time – both as an all-up number but with the more sophisticated solutions on a device by device basis.
Once you have the ability to monitor then you can start to make intelligent decisions – and see the impact of those decisions by tracking changes in real data.
At the macro level solutions like Microsoft Hohm and Google Powermeter can obtain billing data directly from your utility company and give you an overview of what’s happening to a bill by bill basis. Hohm also has a number of wizards to let you provide more information about your dwelling and it then makes recommendations.
Earth Aid goes one step further by using the same data (already connected to more utilities than either Microsoft or Google) as well as performing analysis on local areas to indicate how well you’re doing compared to your neighbors. They identify appropriate offers and tax incentives that you can take advantage of and also let you earn points that you can trade for rewards.
If you want more realtime information Wattvision and the TED 5000 connect to your power meter and provide real time data. The TED product even uploads that data to the Google Powermeter site to give you a more granular dashboard.
Tracking down performance of individual items is a little harder at the moment. Most TVs and refrigerators don’t have a way to report energy usage but you can plug them in via an individual Kill-a-watt plug or power-strip and gather that data to help you understand what your microwave or DVD player are actually costing you in “standby” mode.
It’s interesting to see devices like the Intel Intelligent Home Energy Management platform appearing – by using sensors embedded in devices around the home it can track and monitor everything from the external temperature to the power that your phone charger is drawing and help you make decisions based on the information in real time.
Imagine being able to optimize your use of the electricity grid based on the cost – automatically start your dishwasher at 3am so the dishes are ready for breakfast; monitor the temperature in rooms and make a decision based on occupancy patterns as to when to start warming them; flag an in-efficient household appliance as maybe being in need of replacement.
For now however you can start small and simple with solutions like the Conserve to control things at the click of a switch.