August 03, 2007

There was a bit on NPR this morning about a power company in Massachusetts that is trying to get customers to conserve energy by providing immediate feedback on how much energy they are using. Use your toaster, get a readout on a little devise that says how much electricity your toast is using. Same for your clothes dryer. (I missed the name of the devise they are using - sleep fog and all).

And then it occurred to me: why not have these kinds of meters for everything? A display in your shower that tells you how many gallons you've used and how much energy has gone into the hot water. Readouts on the oven: timer, temperature, cost of the gas. A widget for the computer that keeps track of how much power the computer needs, even in sleep mode.

Sure, there are the little comparison charts on the utility bills. I get a little thrill out of looking at those and seeing if we are using less power/gas/water than we did for the corresponding billing period last year. But more data would be nice. Was the average temperature a year ago more or less than the average temperature this year? How about rainfall? But none of this is as immediate as feedback at the time and place of use. If I get excited about a small decrease in the amount of power/gas/water from a billing statement, imagine the fun of watching how many gallons are right now going into my shower? Why should Prius drivers have all the optimizing fun?

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