By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer
How much electricity is your coffeemaker using right this second? And do you care?
“I think we’re seeing an evolution and a trend starting to occur with home energy monitoring devices,” said Brian Sloboda, senior program manager at NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network.
“The in-home display that everyone was really excited about a few years ago is dead,” Sloboda said of the devices taking up counter space. “Taking its place is something a little more complex that perhaps gives some more information, and might actually start to be useable and—more importantly—actionable.”
That something is a “gateway device” that uses Wi-Fi to bring data from your home’s smart meter to your tablet and smartphone. Free or inexpensive apps let you know just how much energy different items at home are using.
“Studies show that when given detailed appliance level information, people save a lot more energy than just knowing what their entire home uses,” Sloboda said. He noted that Google and Microsoft offered home energy monitoring systems that failed because they only gave the big picture.
But now, he said, “They’re able to finally see that, ‘Wow, my refrigerator is using a lot of energy that it shouldn’t. Perhaps now it’s time to finally replace this 15- or 20-year old refrigerator with a new model.’ Or, ‘Wow, that video game console is using a lot of energy. My kids leave it on all night long.’”
The jury is still out on whether Americans really want all this information. Sloboda said these apps are most likely to appeal to people focused on saving money or concerned about the environment.
“Ultimately, if you use the tool, you do start to change your behavior,” Sloboda said.
With so much stuff plugged in at home, your eyes could glaze over, so Sloboda suggests a few appliances to pay particular attention to, including heating/cooling, refrigeration, home entertainment/computer. “Those are the things that are going to be driving your energy consumption,” he said.
“It’s a great idea to make sure the Xbox is turned off every day, But since you’re not staring at it, you don’t think about it,” Sloboda said. “When you have the app in front of you, you can now start to see what your Xbox is using.”