Thursday, April 1, 2010

Save Money on Monthly Electrical Bills; Just a Click Away

By Chris Brancato

In a research project conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, it was determined that if people were able to govern their household temperature preferences and monthly amounts that they’d like to spend on electrical bills, peak loads on utility grids could be dropped as much as 15 percent according to a recent article in the New York Times.

I feel like this would be a huge way to not only keep a home temperature at a comfortably stable set point, but also to be more considerate of excessive electrical wastes. To harp on the statistical side of this study, the PNNL also determined that over a 20-year period, such monitoring devices would save “$70 billion” on spending for power plants and infrastructure. So not only would it be extremely helpful in town communities, but also in the work environment.

Ideally, the system would be monitored simply through frequenting a web site to set a comfortable home temperature and level of expenses without ever going above, unless of course, it were to be adjusted.

The PNNL’s program director Robert Pratt was noted as being “astounded” at the fact that “if people are given the simple tools an incentive, they will do this.” It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone would choose not to participate in such technology, considering the fact that based on the study there weren’t any downsides to the system.

The software creator of these practices was I.B.M. Users had simple visual graphics that helped them to adjust their personal preferences. The households that did participate in this study ultimately ending up saving 10 percent on their monthly utility bills, which by the end of the year in some cases, added up to over $100.

The one problem that Steve Lohr addresses in the article in relation to this concept is that economists and energy experts are still unaware of how to “tailor incentives to prompt changes in energy consumption.” What Mr. Lohr meant by this is that in relation to seasonal changes, people naturally adjust their household temperatures, which when all is said and done, may only lead in a minimal point shift on a yearly basis. In order for people to actively participate in the extra step of governing their electrical uses, a significant change would be necessary in most cases.

This technological advancement is still in its formative stages and is currently only being used in upgrading federal laboratories’ own systems as opposed to households. I feel like an advancement such as this to have, even if only a few points were noticeable on a yearly basis, would ultimately do a lot of good for our environment and equally as important, our wallets.

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