Give the Gift of Knowledge

My last electricity bill was $84.

I’m actually pretty proud of this given the fact that I have a family of four (five including the dog), my four year-old can reach the light switch and insists on sleeping with the hallway light on every night. For him, the principals of saving energy, which he’s actually pretty conscious of, don’t compare to the principals of monsters in the closet and sneak attacks from the Joker and Gorilla Grodd.

So, $84 seems really good for us, especially since we have an electric heat pump and all electric appliances – no natural gas in the Connell household. I know that $84 is less than the $138 peak we had this summer and less than the $100 goal we set for the household. But here’s what I don’t know:

  • What that means in terms of actual energy use.
  • How that compares to the two-year average of my home.
  • How that compares to similar households in my neighborhood, city or state.
  • How that compares to similar households across the country.

In short, like most Americans, my energy use takes place in a vacuum and any savings are based solely on monetary considerations. If we’re ever going to get serious about reducing energy consumption and addressing climate change, we’ve got to get a more in-depth look at how we use energy and that information has to be made available everywhere.

Introducing Wattvision
Fortunately, the geniuses of Silicon Valley have us covered. Last month, Wattvision, a start-up from the Y Combinator incubator, began shipping the Wattvision Energy Sensor. The Sensor is a wi-fi enabled, user-friendly device that monitors your energy meter and provides real-time data on your energy use with updates coming every 10 seconds. And, quite importantly, sells for under $260, a not-so-unreasonable sum in today’s tech market.

The Wattvision comes in two parts: a sensor that fits over your electricity meter (you literally strap it right over the housing of the meter); and a “gateway” that pushed the data to your personal WattVision web page, iPhone or Android device. Using the device you can literally run around the house, turn out lights and see your energy usage dropping every ten seconds.

More importantly, you can monitor your long-term usage and find peek times of energy use. Got the heat blasting in the middle of the day when you’re at work? Wattvision will see the peak. Is your dishwasher sucking more energy than you thought – you’ll know that too. By having this data literally at your fingertips, you’ll be able to smooth out the peaks, save money and help reduce CO2 emissions.

Keeping up with the Joneses
In addition to giving you your own WattVision dashboard, the company has a rankings page that allows you to see how other households are doing and compare your scores. It also pushes your data to the Google PowerMeter system which provides more data and community interactions.

For the truly geeked-out, WattVision has published an API, so if this catches on we should soon see all sorts of great applications coming out of the programming community for the device.

This holiday season you can either get your tech-savvy loved one an Xbox Kinect or a device that will help them manage the energy their Xbox is sucking up every day.

(image: Screen grab from WattVision website.)

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