For a while now I’ve been waiting for an iPhone app that will help me save money. One particular iPhone app could help save money while also helping me to reduce my energy use, which is a twin goal for me.
Accessing my own real-time energy consumption should enable me to strategically reduce my electricity and gas usage, reducing my monthly bills. The iPhone app I’d like to see created would not only make this strategizing possible. The app would make it easy too.
Create an iPhone App Consolidating Existing (Non iPhone) Programs
Utility companies have begun instituting programs that allow energy consumers to see real-time consumption data via a home computer. Technology companies like Google have also begun developing “smart meter” programs that would allow us to see how many kilowatt hours of electricity our house or apartment is using at any given moment.
As of now, not all energy companies offer the service and even those that do are separate from one another (electricity, gas and water all under separate services and programs).
There is an opportunity here for a smart phone application to unify and centralize the data streams available to individuals interested in gauging energy consumption.
What would this app do exactly?
This iPhone app would tap into a person’s utility accounts offering a real-time display of energy, gas and water consumed and compile that data as it relates to consumption both in terms of the commodity used and in terms of dollars.
A user could open this application and see how much electricity and gas his or her house has used in the last week, day or hour.
The app would also provide information comparing rates of consumption at several levels of detail, offering hourly comparisons, morning versus evening comparisons and daily comparisons.
The real-time nature of this iPhone app would allow an energy consumer to actually see the difference between keeping an extra light turned on or off; between setting the refrigerator at 35 degrees or 45 degrees.
Using the app, an energy consumer would be able to look at his or her current rate of consumption of, say, natural gas with the central heater set at 70 degrees on a winter day.
The app would show the units of gas consumption per hour as well as the real-time cost in dollars per hour at this rate of gas consumption.
The user can then turn the thermostat up or down and watch the rate change in both consumption of natural gas and cost in dollars per hour.
In this way, the abstract commodities of energy would be rendered concrete and immediate.
Why is this helpful?
If this app is created, users would be able to clearly see when they are using the most energy and, in turn, spending the most money on electricity and gas.
In tracking real-time energy use, an iPhone user and electricity consumer can essentially meter his or her own energy consumption. The fine-tuned information this app would provide suggests an enhanced ability to control energy use on the part of the consumer. With greater control, energy consumers can curb wasteful electricity and gas consumption and save money in the process.
Also, by directly linking the ideas of the (ecological) costs of natural resource consumption and the monetary costs of energy consumption, this app brings home the concept that energy production is not fundamentally free.
How is this Green?
Nothing inspires people to conserve resources more effectively than monetizing those resources.
If we know how much it is costing us to have an extra light on in the living room, because our iPhone app shows us the cost in real-time, we will be more inclined to keep that light off.
At the very least, the average energy consumer will think about the electricity cost and ask the question: Is it worth it to have one more light on or can I see well enough without?
This kind of mindfulness is green.
We don’t have to sit in dark living rooms all night. The point is not to turn off all the lights. The point is to turn off the energy consuming lights that are unnecessary. In doing so, we burn less coal and require less output from nuclear power plants, thereby conserving resources and easing the stresses on our energy infrastructure.
A fundamental characteristic of an ecological mindset is awareness of the fact of consumption when it is happening.
Creating a real-time utility meter app for the iPhone would let energy consumers know they are consuming in a very practical and simple way.
Does your energy provider offer a smart meter service? Do you subscribe to that service? Write in with a comment.
These companies currently offer services that could be easily incorporated into an iPhone app: Coned, Southern California Edison, Commonwealth Edison.