Coming up with measurable goals is essential to achieving most sorts of things. It is even better when you can measure partial progress towards your goals, as in “you are 10% closer” – as opposed to “you made it” or “you haven’t” measures.
Fortunately in measuring your energy footprint you have simple ways to get important measurements. Specifically, you can treat your gas and electricity bill as a meter that tells you how closer or farther away you are from your footprint goals. Water bills are also good, if they measure your individual consumption. Other bills (such as the quantity & quality of your trash) are harder to use as good “meters” to set goals against as large utilities charge “by the bin” or flat rates.
My utility bill is full of useful information such as the following.
My utility is courteous enough to include a trend graph for consumption for the year; and a comparison to last year’s data if available.
Data in the bill is very raw- it does not take into account things like:
- Changes in my patterns – for example, did I travel out of town for work? Maybe I had out-of-town visitors that stayed at home for some weeks?
- Environmental changes – Especially the outside temperature and average duration of the day have a huge impact. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the longest day of the year is 16 hours long… and the shortest is 8h 2o min. That makes a huge difference on how long my lights are on or off, making it harder to compare one month against next.
- Accidents – did I leave the lights on? Maybe I forgot to close a window or a door and your heater strived to warm the Great Outdoors for a full winter day ? One bad day can throw your monthly average off.
I think utilities should expose an API or let you download your data in some easy to process format, like a CSV or spreadsheet that can then be imported into Excel or Google Spreadsheets. Of course, the use of Smart Meters that report their data realtime would be great, but a lot of efforts in that direction are still not doing great. In the meantime, periodic data entry, and appliances that report their own consumption will do.
Try doing this with your own utilities, you may learn something new!
June 7th, 2012 at 11:42
[…] energetic rockstar of my house, and a design beacon for the growing industry of smart controllers. Based on my data, I can attribute an approximate 20% on heating gas savings this last winter to this device alone. […]
June 20th, 2012 at 12:33
[…] point or another you’ll need to measure your use to know where to place your efforts. Your utility bill is a great tool, and it gives you a high-level overview of trends, but it won’t help you change your behavior […]
July 10th, 2012 at 18:02
[…] 29 of 7W Philips LEDs (to 203 W). Just swapping the kitchen lights and hallway/stairs lights made a measurable difference. In this area of the world, days are short in the wintertime and you need lights on until 9AM and […]
July 22nd, 2012 at 16:50
[…] CTs. If you don’t care about fine-grained measurement just follow the main improvements and use your bill to track improvement. Share this:EmailTwitterFacebookLinkedInMorePinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggTumblrPrintLike […]
October 2nd, 2012 at 11:23
[…] little data I have suggests the Nest has reduced the heating natural gas used in my household by about 20% – […]