Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Piedmont Connect and Google PowerMeter---

You know, our house in Inverness is in the epicenter of the anti-Smart Meter movement. I have to say I've been attempting to contact PG&E and tell them "please, come to our house and install a Smart Meter!" but I can't find a contact for the program on their website!

Most likely as at your house here in Piedmont, our Smart Meter was installed with no fanfare (notice intentional use of the passive voice). It just--was there. It should be producing some decent data in the next month or so (you can set up an info-account easily at pge.com, and can review your past electric and/or gas usage on a monthly retrospective basis already).

Along with a lucky dozen or so other Piedmonters, we've taken an additional step however, and worked with the great Piedmont Connect team to install some real-time electricity monitoring equipment in the house.

Based on the notion that you can't change what you can't see, the two monitors (see TheEnergyDetective.com and check out the TED5000) send a stream of KwH usage data to our computer network and to Google.Org as part of Google's PowerMeter effort (see google.com/powermeter/about/index.html--thanks you Google meisters!).

In turn, we get moment-by-moment feedback on our usage and costs. We can turn the outside lights off and see what a difference it makes. We can set them up on automatic timers and see what a difference it makes. A great tool for teachable moments regarding stocks and flows.

But seriously.....

It's been making a difference. Every day I can see, when I choose to go and look at it, a comparison of this Monday's usage compared to last Monday's usage, including a break-out of "always on" energy draws. We can set goals--e.g. stay on track compared to last Monday's usage, or shoot for a 10% reduction (in which case all the data are relative to that target). The impact can be measured by KwH, by $, by pounds of carbon, and by estimated annual utility bill. It all depends on what tickles your toes. You can see that for Type A personalities, this can spin out of control.... But it hasn't; I promise.

What really matters is not the input, or the output, but the outcome, so what gives? Well, in mid-January, our daily usage on our main monitor linked to a yearly bill of about $2200. And now we're seeing annual bills in the $1400 range. And this is likely because our usage reduction has been very high-leverage: The Bay Area has a four-tiered billing structure, and our lowered usage is pulling us out of the top tier and into the cheaper-by-the-KwH third tier.

Check out PGE.com and see what your electric and gas usage are, be shocked as I was, and then spend a bit of time making some adjustments. Get that insulation in the attic, install that programmable thermostat, have a chat about the "always on" use, and save some money!

(I'm assuming that we'll keep our monitors forever, but if you want one of your own, I'll pay to get one of these set up at your house--first come first served!)

Update: The week after the beginning of daylight savings time, I realized our programmable thermostat was still set to PST--so the heat was coming one even though we'd all left for school/work. Take a quick peek and make sure yours is clicking on and off at the right time.

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