How to Save Money on Juice

Snapshot of dashboard for AudreyWho cares about saving electricity?  Well, I think we all care about where we can reduce and if not for saving money, at least reducing our sizeable carbon footprint to save mother earth.  In most homes, heating, cooling, water heater, pool pump, and clothes dryer are hungry appliances but how much of the bill goes to feeding them?  What else are big eaters in the house that I don’t know about?

The first step in understanding a problem is awareness of the problem (or is it admitting to the problem?  I don’t remember).  Anyway, a prime example is when I first started using Quicken to track my personal finances 20 years ago, I remember saying, “Is that how much I am spend on junk food? I need to make some changes”.  When I started tracking my eating habits 7 years ago in my custom designed calorie tracker, I remember saying, “Is that how much junk food I am eating?  I need to make some changes”.

So I installed an ENVI from Current Cost.  The beauty of this thing is that it not only shows how much power your house is drinking at the moment, over the day, the week, or the month, it also estimates what the associated costs are.  But the coolest thing is that if you go and plug something in (or unplug something), it will tell you how much that device actually uses in Kw and $.  For example, I never knew really how much electricity the toaster oven actually uses.  Very slick.

Although the device in itself has a pretty good panel with an intutive interface, a more rich monitoring experience can be done by connecting the Current Cost device to the Current Cost online dashboard or Google Powermeter.  I have decided to connect the device to Audrey so that she monitors power usage for me but also notify me or make her own decisions based on that usage.  For example, if the usage for the day is targetted to be too high, she can notify me or even better, turn off some non essential devices, reduce the runtime on the pool pump, turn down the thermostats, or turn off some lights if I am not even at home.

One thing I have noticed is that at the lowest level, the house still uses around 800W all the time.  This must be from the refrigerator, TVs in standby, small appliances, vampire draw, and the computer equipment in the rack.

One of the last pieces needed is to directly be able to monitor some key individual devices like the refrigerator and the washing machine to truly see the usage of that sucker.  Current Cost is going to be releasing Individual Appliance Monitors (IAMs) in the next few months that will plug into the system nicely.

With the infrastructure now in place, I can teach my digital life assistant, Audrey to watch the power usage, act upon it, and systematically reduce my carbon footprint automatically without me thinking about it.  Perfect.

Details for the Geeks

For the tech on how I did this, here are the ingredients:

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