Be your own energy police

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The energy police are here. That’s me, for precisely three days a month… the three days immediately following the receipt of my gas and electricity bill. I play the role of water police on a different three days of the month.

I think it is great to monitor and control your energy use, I just wish I was better at it. My problem is that I’m forgetful. Not forgetful in the sense that I leave the oven on and the dinner catches fire (although I wouldn’t put that past me either), but forgetful in the sense that an item of relatively low priority simply won’t get done if I’m not reminded of it frequently.

Don’t get me wrong, conserving energy should not be a low priority item, it’s just that my internal dialogue is so preoccupied with moment-to-moment problems that I forget about being good. Instead of thinking, “I should unplug the TV when I’m not using it,” I’m thinking, “Why aren’t my jogging shoes in the hallway closet? Who ate the last of the cereal and put the empty bag back in the box? Is there gas in the car? I’m probably going to be late for work again.”

Except for those three days after I get the bill, then a snapshot of my brain reveals a much more motivated consumer. Then I’m thinking, “I need to use the oven to roast a chicken for dinner, I should multi-task and make the brownies for my in-law’s potluck at the same time. Would that make the brownies taste like chicken? Who cares, I’m saving energy!”

Recently, my ‘27 days of forgetfulness followed by 3 days of frenzied energy saving’ model of living got a kick in the butt. PG&E, our energy company, installed SmartMeters on our gas and electric lines.

This is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to my energy consumption habits. I found out that PG&E has an online tracking tool – a program that allows me to see our energy consumption by the hour with just a 24 hour lag time. I set the energy tracker log-on page as my homepage and now every time I launch my browser I check-up on how we’re doing and am reminded to be energy conscious, but more than that, for the first time I actually feel like I’m in control of my household energy use.

The number on my energy bill is no longer a mystery.

Of course, just looking at your SmartMeter won’t save you money any more than thumbing through Gourmet magazine will result in a delicious meal.  You need to take action with the simple tips I’ll discuss on this blog, and deeper recommendations you can review at GreenHomes America.

Now I keep a log of energy use and changes we make around the house, and correlate it to the changes I see on my SmartMeter energy tracker page. In the next few weeks I’ll be letting you in on the changes we’ve made both in our energy use habits and our energy-using hardware, and how they’ve affected our energy bill.

I’m hoping for great things. I’m hoping being more energy efficient will become a habit rather than something I have to think about. I’m hoping I’ll no longer freak out for 3 days a month and go into damage control mode, and thus,  to no longer have to sneak out of the room when I hear the words, “Who made these brownies? They taste kind of strange…”

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One Response to “Be your own energy police”

  1. CT home energy audit Says:

    Haha… yes, when brownies are on the line, maybe we can look the other way and cook sequentially.
    The Smart Meters are a happy development – all utilities should do that – but these days there are also many home energy meters being sold online. If you’re interested in a more detailed breakdown of your energy use – which appliances could use less power, which ones drain electricity when switched off, which ones need to be replaced – this is certainly an option.
    Of course, if you’re trying to save on energy costs, one of the first things is to get an energy audit, to see if your home is leaking heat (or cool) like a sieve. Your state may even offer rebates or stimulus for audits.

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