Archive for the ‘Smart Meters’ Category

Is It Getting Smart in Here or Is It Just Me?

June 12, 2012

It used to be that thermostats sat on the wall waiting to be turned.  It was a very manual affair.  A simple dial to turn or lever to push and if you left the house and forgot to change it, you kept it warm for the cat and houseplants at least.  And with that, we did not think much about our energy bill, kind of dumb.

The nest thermostat is elegant in design but also learns in a sense.  The little leaf guides you (it’s lets you know you’ve set the temperature to one that is efficient) and you guide it, as it learns your behavior.

Another thermostat is the Ecobee, somewhat more conventional looking, but just as “smart”.   Both of these devices, as well others on the market, are wireless enabled and allow you to connect to your phone, tablet or computer.

You can also get weather information or be alerted when things aren’t working at home (good to know if your pipes could freeze in the winter, or you do butter sculpture in your living room in the summer).

I like these but I’ll say it again, monitoring our usage isn’t worth much unless we change our behavior, and I think devices like this might help.  Maybe it won’t really make me smarter, but it reminds me when I’m not being smart about energy, and that can only help.



Check out this smart grid video

September 12, 2010

A few weeks ago, Kathryn wrote about her smart meter on the way it helps her impact the energy use in her own home.  Well, smart meters are but one piece of the overall smart grid concept.

Watch this Smart Grid Video

And although this video is clearly a piece of proganda, I think it does a nice job explaining the vision of what a smart grid might be and do for us.

And with the stress on our grid (or, really, grids), we’ve got to do something.  Of course, if we got a lot more serious about energy-effiiciency, and actually started significantly ratcheting back our energy usage, in buidlings and homes in particular, we could get by with a plain old dumb grid for a lot longer!   We are running out of time on this, though.  While it’s not something we talk about much, and we almost never here about it in the press (why would we?  The latest hubbub on Britney Spears is SO MUCH more important!), utilities know:  most of the country is headed toward serious issues with generation capacity and transmission.  Smart grid or not, we need to act soon.


Be your own energy police

August 18, 2010

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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