So, You’re Dieting Again?

*Danny Orlando’s home energy use from 1994-2012

By: Danny Orlando:

It’s a familiar routine.  You decide that taking a little weight off is a good idea and today is the day to do it.  The first thing you likely do is head to the bathroom, take off all but what is necessary, and then step on the scale.  That’s just the beginning.  For the weeks ahead, success is based on that number and you will, more often than you would like, step on the scale again and again to keep track of your progress.  If someone you trust asks how you are doing, you will be quick with an accurate assessment as you strive to reach your goal.

Losing weight is a personal goal for many Americans, but I have a different “weight loss” question for you today. How many kilowatt-hours (kWh) did you use in your home last month?  Most people don’t know.  I have asked the question to homeowners and even to commercial building facility managers.  In a room of 60 people, only a few will raise their hands.  Some say they know what they paid, but not what they used.  What you pay fluctuates based on cost, but what you use (kWh) is most important; that is your weight.  Amazingly, we all seem to want to lose some of our energy waste, but we are not willing to step on the scale.

Why don’t you make a promise to yourself today to go on an energy diet?  This won’t be nearly as difficult as a food diet because there are ways to control your energy use by simply paying attention.  One of the more interesting devices that I recently purchased was a wireless transmitter that attaches to the electric meter and sends data from the meter to a wireless device in my house that displays energy consumption information. There are several companies that offer these meters at various price points.  The meter allows me to track minute-by-minute changes in energy consumption, such as when major appliances are turned on and off. Electricity use can be displayed several ways, but the most interesting is the real-time kilowatt (kW) usage and the predicted usage for the month.  As efficient as my home is, the meter caused me to make additional changes that have reduced my energy use even further.  I can see the kW usage move from 1.2 to 4.5 when the air conditioner comes on, and that made me reconsider my thermostat programming.

Before the device was installed, the air conditioner would sometimes come on and I would think, “I really don’t need that right now because I am comfortable”, but I would let it run anyway.  Now I have reprogrammed the thermostat so that if I become uncomfortable, I will get up and manually reduce it one degree; I have rarely taken that step.  Because of this device, I can see my ‘waste gain’ in real-time and I have achieved record low usage this summer even though we just had a terrible heat wave.   Last month my ‘waste’ was 1067 kWh or 25 percent below 2011.  That scale is really working!  For those who want to save energy without the use of gadgets, ENERGY STAR has you covered. Just check out ENERGY STAR’s website for easy to use information and tools like the ENERGY STAR Pledge.

Today is your day to take the challenge and step on the energy scale.  Simply pay attention and you will save money and help the environment.  Good luck on your energy diet!

Danny Orlando joined EPA’s Atlanta office in 1991 and oversees the ENERGY STAR program in the Southeastern states.

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