Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Power Of Information

A couple of weeks ago using solar electricity in the home was mentioned here.  This activity involves evaluating energy (watts) use and then installing an appropriately-sized solar electrical system that includes photovoltaic panels, inverter, and energy meters to monitor energy production and use.  How is electrical energy evaluated in a home?  For home residents, information on energy use usually involves reading the monthly power bill that arrives in the mail, supported by numbers from the kilowatt meter on the side of the house.  This power company bill does not tell much about patterns of energy use in the home and with it, decisions about how to improve energy use are difficult to make.  
But why wait to install an expensive solar electric system, when energy could be monitored and adjusted in cheaper ways.  Many types of home energy meters are becoming available and are appearing on the market horizon.  The information from energy meters can change behavior, often in surprising ways.  Information from these meters can help home residents to evaluate their energy uses and plan improvements and expenses accordingly.  Energy budgeting is a powerful experience that helps residents change energy use if so desired.  Studies have shown a 5 to 15 percent reduction in power consumption when energy use data is available to the consumer.  It is like calculating the miles per gallon of gas used in a car and making purchasing and driving decisions based on that information.
Information on power production and use can help communities plan for future power needs using smart grid technology.  Coordination of use in and among households can reduce power use during peak periods and shift power use to times when surplus power is available.  Audits of energy use can be made to suggest appropriate weatherization and insulation for homes.  Since solar electrical systems are relatively expensive, other less expensive energy technologies may be installed first.  Solar hot water systems are efficient and relatively inexpensive.  Energy efficient appliances are becoming more available.  There are lots of energy options available for the home when information on energy use is gathered and budgets are constructed.  Behavior can be changed when knowledge comes from experience.
Posted by michael   

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