Save Energy With Google
If consumers had the necessary technologies to monitor energy usage on a day-to-day or even week-to-week basis, would consumption habits change? When conservation is no longer a personal choice, but instead a necessary obligation, smart technologies are evolving to provide consumers with tools to make energy usage visible and create an impetus for more sustainable living.
Last month, World Green conducted a review of Microsoft Hohm, a free program designed to monitor and track residential energy usage. This month we looked at Google PowerMeter, a comparable program that has many of the same functions.
Google PowerMeter was launched in February, 2009. According to the program website, the goal of PowerMeter is to “give users access to their own energy information.” It is a larger endeavor than Microsoft Hohm, working globally in the United States, Germany, Canada, and India. Thus far, PowerMeter has partnered with nine utility companies–San Diego Gas Electric, First:Utility, TXU Energy, Wisconsin Public Service, White River Valley Electric Cooperative, JEA, Glasgow EPB, Reliance Energy (India), Toronto Hydro-Electric System (Canada) and Yello Strom (Germany). PowerMeter has also united with two smart reader companies, TED and AlertME, which provide smart grid technologies to homes and offices.
PowerMeter relies on utility smart readers and energy monitoring devices to gather information in roughly 15 minute intervals. These regular intervals enable users to receive real-time energy use updates and allow them to view how much energy they consume on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
The intervals appear on a graph, with time on the x-axis and consumption on the y-axis. Users are able to monitor at which points throughout the day their energy use increases or decreases. The graph also includes a section for “Always On” appliances, such as refrigerators or computers in standby mode. Identifying energy-sucking appliances inspires consumers to consider their habits in relation to finances.
Fortunately, PowerMeter includes a financial component, making it easy for users to reflect upon their energy usage. The program comes equipped with “Budget Tracker” which enables users to predict their yearly energy costs in an effort to start readjusting habits and making changes early. PowerMeter can calculate approximately how much money a consumer will spend in a year based on energy expenditures and compare day to day activities with past energy usages.
Similar to Hohm, PowerMeter also includes a “Community Forum” where users can exchange energy-saving tips and advice, share energy usage reports with others, and consult a Help Desk with questions or inquiries.
There are still a few downsides to Google PowerMeter. To get the fullest benefit from the program, a connection to a utility company is necessary. If a user’s utility company is unlisted but the user still wants to participate, s/he would need to purchase a smart reading device. In Hohm, users can participate without purchasing a smart reader. Google is currently exploring ways to access energy data without smart readers in an effort to accommodate more users. Despite these flaws, Google PowerMeter is another stong step in making energy consumption visable.
While few individuals question monthy energy bill costs, perhaps the development of enery-saving programs like Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm will inspire consumers to look more carefully at where energy consumption originates.