A Gift for us Energy Misers

Steven Brown, editor in chief

I’m kind of an energy miser. I follow family members around the house turning off lights as soon as they’ve set one foot outside a room. I program my thermostat so that when we’re away from the house in the winter it’s an ice box and a hot house in the summer. No doubt, the cat hates me for it. My electric water heater is set to exacting tolerances–just enough juice to get through a shower of sensible length. No lollygagging in there. Apparently, I’m different from most Americans in this regard, as we’re generally cast as a bunch of energy gluttons with no regard for the scarcity of natural resources.

My habits have nothing to do with a love of the environment or a disdain for our reliance on foreign nations for oil. I’m just plain-old cheap.

Having resigned myself to that fact, there’s something I’ve wanted for a long time: a device that’ll show me how much energy I’m using at any given time and what I’m paying for it. I need it to show me that info in as close to real-time as possible so I’ll know the exact financial implications of changing the temperature setting on my fridge from 3.5 to 3. Maybe it’d be in my best interest to eat my toast a shade lighter, but how am I to know without such a device.

And now, glory be, such a device is about to become widely available. I just got the press release this morning. “A groundbreaking consumer energy display currently being deployed in Australia will be demonstrated by Cellnet+Hunt at the DistribuTECH Expo in Tampa Bay, Fla.,” the release begins. I’ll be heading out to DistribuTECH next week, and this is one innovation I can’t wait to get a look at.

The device is called the “ecoMeter,” and it’s described as “a consumer monitor that installs easily anywhere in the home and displays electric, water and gas usage, along with dynamic pricing alerts.” It was developed by Ampy Metering, and it’s been in use in Australia for a couple of years now.

Here’s more from the press release:

“The display engages consumers by showing real-time and historical electricity consumption, greenhouse gas emission information, and tariff lights for “Ëœoff peak,’ “Ëœshoulder,’ and “Ëœdynamic peak’ pricing periods. Real-time pricing information allows consumers to adjust their usage to save costs during peak demand periods. The ecoMeter can receive usage information from any electric meter and pricing information from the utility. It is also configured to interface with pulse and flow meters to display consumption of gas and water.”

Awesome. Just what I’ve been wanting.

The press release ends by saying that surveys indicate more than 90 percent of consumers are willing to adopt dynamic rates for energy in exchange for pricing incentives. Heck, I don’t even need the dynamic rates. All the pricing incentive I need is a lower bill, which I can no doubt achieve by fiddling more with the programmable thermostat and giving the rest of the family a visual indicator of why I’m always turning their lights off for them. This type of device is a fantastic idea and one I’m really looking forward to seeing on the market later this year. With any luck, it’ll be wrapped up under my conservatively lit Christmas tree next December.

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