Changing behavior via awareness of energy consumption

animationnew.gifThere is an episode of the television show Seinfeld (“The Dealership“) where Kramer is test driving a car. During the test drive, Kramer notices the fuel gauge is empty and he wants to know how far he can drive before he really runs out of gas.

While I haven’t gone that far I like to see how fuel efficiently I can possibly drive. My car has a dynamic display of instant fuel economy in miles per gallon (my record is 37.5 MPG in a non-hybrid sedan).

Why do I do this? I don’t know–perhaps an innate competitiveness. But I know others who do this as well. Why not capitalize on this change in behavior by including more energy consumption displays in more products and even in the home. The image on the left is a new home energy monitor which tracks electricity, gas, and water usage.

localcooling.jpgHere is a new application that displays energy usage on your PC (found via Download Squad).

While research is mixed on whether these devices actually lead to reduced energy consumption, they sure are fun to look at.

One thought on “Changing behavior via awareness of energy consumption”

  1. This article linked off of the BBC article talks about studies that have been conducted with these specific types of meters. It seems like the most optimistic assessment puts conservation gains at only 10%. For years you have been able to buy the Killawatt to do this for specific appliances in the home. That said, I have never quite made it around to getting one myself. The utilities company out here (gas and electric) not only allows you to track changes in your usage through your online bill, but frequently offers special rebates to users who can post energy bills down a certain % from their previous year’s bill in the same month.

    On the car side of things, people seem to appreciate efficiency in cycles. Back in the OPEC crisis period 70s, quite a few cars had optional gages that indicated whether you were wasting gas or not (based on a simple vacuum measurement). After market providers also allowed users to add these gages to the cars they already had. By 76 Cadillac had meters in their cars giving instant MPG, and average MPG in real-time digital readouts. I recall contemporary articles either fell into two categories … people who responded by trying to get the best possible number and those who found it depressing.

    A final note on meters of this type goes to accuracy … almost any new car with enough of an enthusiast following to have a website will have at least one discussion forum devoted to gas mileage; the majority of these discussions come to the conclusion that the dashboard readouts for fuel consumption are universally optimistic. The fill-drive-fill method is still the most accurate, but the distance between feedback loop between this and driving technique is obviously too open. To me this suggests that the greatest value in instant MPG measurement would be in identifying relative changes… a task that might not be best suited by inaccurate, rapidly changing digital displays. The old vacuum units had analog needles or stoplight-like red/yellow/green 3 light displays.

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