I try to conserve energy - making my husband a little nuts because he does not like the light from compact fluorescent bulbs (really, who does). According to the community of women using Skinny Scoop , we're all running around the house turning off lights and lowering the heat. Upgrading our appliances too (that's fun and energy efficient).
But I didn't have information to know if any of my efforts matters. Now that I have a PG&E Smart Meter, I have the information to at least see how we are using energy.
And for the kids, it can be a new sort of computer game - because the PG&E site lets us see our energy usage by month, day and hour. It's pretty interesting to see. By attending a mommy-blogger luncheon hosted by Silver Spring Networks (one of the Smart Meter network providers), I learned that the most expensive hours to consume energy are from 2-7pm - because we all come home from school and work and make dinner. Definitely not the ideal time to do laundry or dishes. My family is no different - check out our hourly consumption.
The network that Silver Spring enables gives PG&E information about energy consumption patterns so that PG&E can do better capacity planning and distribution. That should lead to fewer brown-outs, I would hope.
But there's an interesting side effect. It turns out that when people can see how they are consuming energy, they start to tinker to try to reduce the amount of energy they use. I'm very curious about what's drawing so much energy at 4am...will be trying to figure that out. I also unplugged everything I could prior to a family trip so that I could determine how much energy my home draws without people. Look for that post in early 2011.
In 2011, I plan to make this a game for my kids...see if they can get the meter lower. Apparently, PG&E and Silver Spring have the technology in the meters and networks to isolate by circuit what is drawing energy. Granted, you'd need to have an appliance that was Smart Meter enabled, but someone will create retrofit solutions for people on the hunt to save money and save energy. I'm going to try the kid-powered method first.
To access your Smart Meter reports, you have to create a login with PG&E using your account number and exact name as it appears on your bills. It's a bit cumbersome, but once set up - it's very easy to see how you are doing. And to compare yourself to the neighbors - a little healthy competition for the energy saving.