Pushing This Green Button Will Lower Your Power Bill

Let's take a closer look at the Green Button and see if it is more than just an adult toy. According to Obama and other government supporters, the Green button is going viral. Ya, right, I don't believe it.

There has been several efforts in previous years to get power companies to "sign on" to programs that allow electric and gas customers to see how much energy they are using right there and then. The theory is that households that have energy usage data readily available will use that information to conserve energy.

Even Google, with a program they called Google Powermeter, entered the real time energy usage arena and tried to get power companies to sign up. Power companies were slow to accept the powermeter program and Google cancelled the program back in 2011.

Now, with the help of former White House CTO ( Chief Technology Office ) Aneesh Chopra, the Green Button is trying to standardize the technology for reporting real time energy usage to power company customers. This means one program across the US with the same technology.

So far, the Green Button program has signed up some big power companies. Most of the companies in California are on board and more recently American Electric Power, Austin Energy, Baltimore Gas and Electric, CenterPoint Energy, Commonwealth Edison, NSTAR, PECO, Reliant and Virginia Dominion Power. With a total service area of over 27 million households, the Green Button is getting a good initiation.

With the common technical platform, third party entrepreneurs are being encouraged to develop innovative applications as though the Button was a cell phone or iPod.

What does all this mean to the average consumer?

1. It means that you need a smart meter first. No smart meter, no green button.

2. It means that if your electric company sees enough benefit in the Green Button for them, they may go ahead and sign up.

3. It means that if your electric company signs up, they may offer the Green Button Program to you.

4. It means that if you sign up for the program, you will be able to get real time energy usage data on your computer or other connected device, iPod, smart phone, etc.

5. It also means, that as time goes by, third party applications will become available and you will be encouraged by those companies to purchase their app's. Now that sounds like a smart phone for sure.

6. It also means that you can compare electric companies, rate plans, and time-of-use data more effectively. There maybe a better power company for you.

Could Spread Nationwide

Rep. Ed Markey ( D-MA ) has written legislation that he is calling e-Know. This legislation ( Electric Consumers Right to Know Act ) would require all electric providers to make electrical data available to their customers. Markey said,

"But energy information shouldn't be something that only a small portion of American households have access to. All Americans should have the right to access their energy data so that they can better reduce energy waste and shrink their bills. That's why I will soon be introducing legislation that would require all electricity companies to make this information available to their customers."

Green Button and an Energy Saving Contest

The green Button is so excited about third party applications being developed that the Energy Department is sponsoring a contest. The contest begun in April and is offering a $100,000 prize to the winner. If you had a Green Button app that link your iPhone to your clothes dryer and you could set the dryer to run when electric power was the cheapest, that would really be an app that could lower a power bill.

How Does Green Button Energy Savings Work for You and Me?

So, if the Green button program is available to you and you have registered with your power company to take part in the program, you can log into your electrical account with your power company and there will actually be a green button on the screen. Click on the Green Button and the computer will take you to the pages that are displaying your energy usage right at that time of day.

The you will be able to compare the current usage with other days and other times during the day.

Now you have some choices to make , for example.

1. Should you turn the thermostat up a few degrees because it appears the air conditioner is using a lot of power right now?

2. Should you call home and ask the kids why the electric oven has been on for 20 minutes?

3. Should you really concentrate on saving power between 5 PM and 8 PM because those are your highest usage times that cost you the most per kilowatt hour?

4. Should you consider installing that heat pump you've always wanted because every time the electric furnace kicks on the usage goes through the roof?

5. After watching the furnace cycle on and off 40 times a day, should you reconsider air sealing the attic and adding insulation?

Looking for Green Button App

It is true I believe, that the Green Button program does provide an opportunity to conserve power. It may well be true that knowledge is power and in this case, the knowledge of real time power usage provides the power to save power.

Of course, the success of the Green Button will depend on how much the button is actually used. Will it be a situation like so many others that the newness and excitement wears off in a hurry. How many hot tubs have been installed only to be used a few times and then drained for winter and never refilled.

How many water beds were set up and enjoyed as the best thing in beds ever and then after a year of rolling around and two water leaks later, were drained and stored in the garage.

I think the Green Button on your power company website will go the way of the waterbed and hot tub - a good idea, exciting and useful for awhile, but not an everyday, usable advantage.

The applications for the Green Button program that will involve iPhones, iPods and kindles, is another story. The advantages of being on the go and monitoring and adjusting the energy efficiency of your home is more than an adult toy and more than a passing fancy.

Do you have a Smart meter installed at you home? If you do, call your power company and ask them where the Green Button is. As soon as you can, sign up for the green Button program and then wait for the app's that will change your idea of home energy efficiency forever.

Thank you for stopping by detectenergy.com, hope there is a green button in your future, but I won't leave the lights on for you...  Don Ames, feel free to join me at detectenergy.com and register for my free e-newsletter, the Energy Spy Insider.

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Tags: button, companies, conservation, energy, green, home, power, savings


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Comment by Craig Savage on August 6, 2012 at 8:05am

I'm waiting for Green Button to arrive in Santa Barbara. It's a struggle, though, as over 6% of the residents have "opt'd out" of the program due to fears of Big Brother, Brain Damage from wireless transmission, and general FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). And they must really be committed, because they must pay $70 up front, and then $9/mo to keep their old meter.

On a slightly different topic, I think interactions with smart grid will become "background" efforts in the future. by that I mean our actions that effect energy savings -- like turning off lights, or pre-cooling the house before arrival -- will be monitored without needing constant, active input.....our phones know where we are at all times, and can communicate with our homes. If I'm driving home, my phone can tell my house when I'll be driving up and can have all my electrical appliances at the ready. 

Comment by Bob Blanchette on August 4, 2012 at 7:19pm

We have a "green button" for our smartmeter. Combines with Multiple choices  for power plans (Flat rate, time of use, variable peak pricing) customers can save 1/4 or more on their power bill.


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