While Americans are becoming better educated on the need to conserve energy than ever before, we still have a ways to go in turning this awareness into action. Fortunately, modern technology is helping provide home owners with a variety of home energy management tools that can make it easier for households to track and understand their energy usage, while also making changes to their daily lifestyle and activity in an effort to make a positive change in home energy use.
Some of these tools are already gaining wide acceptance. Others are a bit slower to be picked up, and still others are in very early stages of adoption. In this article we will look at a few of these home energy management tools, and how they are making home energy management better today, reducing each American home’s impact on our environment as well as the impact of the energy bill on the home owner’s wallet.
Small Changes are Easy to Adopt There are a variety of home energy management tools that many consumers are already using, and have excellent results with. Perhaps the most common home energy management tool is the programmable thermostat. These units are inexpensive (ranging from $35 to upwards of $150, depending upon features and ease of use) and can usually be installed by a somewhat handy homeowner in less than an hour. Actually, some power companies are installing these in homes for free, recognizing their ability to save a lot of money in energy costs. How do these programmable thermostats save money?
Simply put, programmable thermostats are an easy way to set a house to a certain temperature without having to think about it on a daily basis. A homeowner can program the thermostat once to be cooler at night, warmer during the day – or vice versa – easily saving energy while keeping a home comfortable. For example, on a hot summer day they can set the air conditioning to cool the house just as they rise from bed, and to keep it cool until they leave for work. Then, the thermostat can allow the house to be warmer while everyone is at school and work, returning it to a cooler temperature just as the first person is to arrive at home.
Also available today are small devices that consumers can use to measure how much power their appliances consume. These energy measurement devices can be purchased at a variety of retailers, including Amazon, for just $20 or so. They are easy to use; you simply plug the unit into a wall outlet, then plug an appliance into the unit. The unit then tells you how much energy the appliance is using, either turned on or turned off, helping consumers make informed decisions about energy use. These are not being used much now, but as consumer awareness increases their use will likely increase as well.
Unusual Options can be Scary Recognizing that heating and cooling accounts for about half of most people’s energy use, some power companies are offering an interesting power management option that many customers are currently apprehensive to try. This is a type of timed energy management, where consumers are given a new free thermostat that helps regulate their home’s heating and cooling costs by providing the home with more energy during times that energy is less expensive and less energy during times when energy is more expensive. While these programs have potential, consumers will need to become more comfortable with the perceived lack of control before they are willing to try out this new money saving option.
Bigger Changes and Awareness are on the Horizon Some power and heating/cooling companies are working on computer technology that will allow consumers to efficiently monitor their home energy use. These tools will plug into a home, allowing the home owner to check their computer to see at a glance how much energy their home is using in various places. They can see what heating is costing, versus what cooling is costing. They can check their light costs verse hot water heater, and so on. With these future tools consumers will be able to make informed decisions on how they use their power every day.