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Green Building News

Checking Your Electricity Use on Google

Monitors which provide real-time information on electricity use can help homeowners conserve power. Several manufacturers produce real-time electricity monitors; the PowerCost monitor shown above uses a transmitter unit that clamps around a utility meter's glass cylinder. The display unit is usually installed in a home's living room or kitchen.
Image Credit: Blue Line Innovations

Whole-House Electricity Monitors Go Online

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — In a few months, Google plans to launch a new service, Google PowerMeter, to provide homeowners with access to a Web-based display of electricity use at their home in real time. To use the new service, homes will need to be equipped with “smart” utility meters or with commercially available whole-house electricity monitors (see www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/green-basics/lighting-and-phantom-loads).

At least two manufacturers currently sell such devices: Blue Line Innovations (www.bluelineinnovations.com) offers the PowerCost monitor, and Energy Incorportated (www.theenergydetective.com) offers the Energy Detective. “We are in conversations with a number of device makers and utilities,” said Kirsten Olsen-Cahill, a program manager at Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google.

Several studies have demonstrated that the installation of a whole-house electricity monitor with an indoor display can help homeowners reduce electricity use by 6.5% to 15%.

Web-connected monitors have been installed in the home electrical panels of thirty Google employees testing a prototype version of Google PowerMeter. According to a report posted on a New York Times blog by Miguel Helft (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/googling-your-home-electricity-usage/), “Ms. Olsen Cahill said that on a recent morning she checked the tool on her computer when she woke up and noticed that her usage was about 600 watts, or triple her typical consumption level. That sent her looking around the house for answers. ‘It turns out my husband had used the toaster oven the night before and the dial got stuck,’ Ms. Olsen Cahill said. ‘It had been on all evening.’ ”

Another Google employee who is testing the service is program manager Michael Terrell. Terrell “said the tool could be an eye-opener: turning on his kitchen halogen lights, for instance, raised his baseline energy use by a startling 100 percent, he said. ‘It changes the way you think about electricity,’ he said.”

Google claims that it has no plans to generate revenue from Google PowerMeter at this time, and has promised to allow third-party programmers to develop new features to enhance the service.

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