Press the Green Button for energy savings

February 17, 2012

Utility companies across the United States are implementing so-called Green Button initiatives to allow consumers to monitor their energy use. Last month, California's three major power companies serving 10 million homes announced they will offer Green Button programs to consumers. Under the plan, residents can track their energy use on smart devices or by computer.

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The idea of the Green Button program stemmed from a challenge last fall by Obama Administration officials to allow homeowners to click a single button to receive a screen shot or printable report at a moment's notice from their utility company's website. In response, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison have committed to the plan.

According to The White House, the data will help you to adjust your home thermostat, retrofit your house, and optimize alternative energy sources in direct response to the numbers that show up when you activate your Green Button. Cash-conscious consumers will be able to interact with their home HVAC systems to trim their monthly bills.

Making the plan work for you

While nationwide adoption will take some time, the move to smart phone and computer app utility control programs for consumers seems inevitable. Smart thermostat companies already provide apps so consumers can change their heat or cooling settings remotely. But knowing how to adjust your home systems is just the first step.

Supposing you plan on installing solar panels or want to calculate windows replacement costs; rounding up a long-term -- as well as an on-the-fly -- assessment of your power use helps you fine-tune your home improvements and upgrades.

Creative ways to monitor your utilities are on the way. The New York Times reports that a company called Simple Energy tried out a green energy contest on 200 consumers in Texas and Southern California. The three-month contest saved consumers an average of 20 percent on their utility bills. Consumers may someday use apps that resemble computer games to test their resolve to trim their energy costs.

Mulling over a new tank-less water heater or windows? Replacement cost should take long-term savings into consideration. Not long from now you'll be able to punch up your average use, the anticipated monthly savings by product features, and buy your green upgrades with confidence. The winner of the Simple Energy contest cut her energy use by 45 percent, a number that ought to push everyone's button.

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