Own Your Energy, and We'll Own Up to Ours... in Public and on Twitter too!

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By Peter Troast - April 21st, 2009

Energy Circle HouseWattsWe have been monitoring our home energy use for several months now, using our preferred whole house energy monitor TED, The Energy Detective. With Earth Day 09 as our starting point, we are going to make our electricity use public on EnergyCircle. We have adapted the TED to make it capable of streaming our household's data directly to the Internet. (A somewhat sophisticated hack inspired in part by Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone's Tweet-A-Watt. We'll open source it in the next day or so).  And we are annotating our daily energy graph (using Google's cool charting tool) and simultaneously posting those notes on twitter. (@energycircleKW) We now have access, 24/7, to the goings-on of our house, and so do you. In the first 24 hours since our monitoring system went live, we've learned a lot. Our drier is an energy hog beyond my imagination. I can see the spike, and I know what it's costing me.

The data shows that measurement, and the awareness it produces, typically results in an almost immediate 15% reduction in use. That's great for you, and great for the planet. The powerful impact of measuring is one reason why we are so excited about Google PowerMeter being launched later this year.  Google predicts that if half of U.S. households cut their electricity demand by 10%, the electricity savings would be greater than today’s total U.S. wind and solar power output. That makes efficiency a very affordable renewable resource. Not only that, the carbon emissions avoided by those household reduction would be equivalent to taking approximately 8 million cars off the road.

We are counting on Google bringing its unparalleled analytics technology to electricity.  We've committed publicly to help be part of the solution for the millions who will wait years for utility smart metering to arrive, and to figure out how PowerMeter can capture heating oil, natural gas and other key energy sources.

But we're not patient people. That's why we're putting our own four person, and one (small, efficient) dog, house on public display, right now.  We hope that noting the rise and fall of our electricity usage while we do mundane household tasks will spur some reflection. We've already noticed the tight mesh pattern of the electric heater (though an efficient one) that is our only source of basement heat, and the wild spikes when the drier kicks in. We invite you to monitor our usage and think about your own.

Yes, it's just one house, an 80's house, with a 90's addition, and plenty of air leaks (4500 cfm to be exact). But consider this: buildings consume 48 percent of all energy, 76 percent of all electricity, and are responsible for nearly 50 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. That's no small matter.

In the midst of a river of greenwashing and Earth Day hype, we are doing one small thing: owning up to our energy use. We know conserving energy will save us money. It also may very well be the greenest thing we could possibly do. Join us. Own your energy.

Check out  our 24/7 electricity usage here.
And follow our Twitter Live Stream on @EnergyCircleKW. To see my comments on the experience, follow: @EnergyCircle


Comments

Very cool! Are you pulling this data directly off the USB or is it coming through Footprints? Posted by wembley on Apr 21, 2009 10:00am

Directly off USB. We'll publish how we did it in the next couple days. Thanks.

Posted by Peter Troast on Apr 21, 2009 12:08pm
Very cool. I got a TED about a month ago, and using some Python scripts I found online (google for ted5.py), you can poll the TED for info. I poll mine once a minute, and lot that info to a file. Then daily run it through jpgraphs, to produce a graph of usage for the day. I also have data posted to my webpage every minute. And added outdoor temperature to the daily graphs so I can see my energy use relative to temp (as temps fall or rise, my heat pump is going to run more or less, either cooling the house, or heating it). Overall, love the TED. I seriously hope that Google will either themselves write, or easily allow people with TEDs to post their data to powermeter. BTW, I use the python script because I have a Mac gathering the data from my weather station and TED, that, and Footprints is a really janky program. =) Can't wait to see what you guys are doing, since I couldn't get the google graphs api to really work with 1440 data points (a point every minute for 24 hours). Posted by RS on Apr 22, 2009 2:20pm
Super cool. This is kind of OT, but I'm wondering where you found your stats for energy use. I ask because I was looking for similar info earlier today. Wikipedia suggests that buildings make up 38% of U.S. energy use, but that's excluding "industrial" use. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States Cheers! Posted by Jack on Apr 22, 2009 7:39pm

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