March 11, 2019

The Argument for Customizing Energy Choices


Control vs. Choice

Though sharing many commonalities with others, we proudly affirm what makes us unique!  Sometimes we don’t control all aspects of our individuality.  For example, the region or state in which we grow up, raise our families, or work.  But other times, we choose based upon our perceptions of value.  For example, through our spending decisions, our willingness to invest, or our readiness to modify behavior.  In the case of managing household spending, customizing energy choices provides fertile ground for savings.  

The Impact on Energy Usage

Regardless, factors of control and choice influence our decisions as energy consumers.  For example, where we live plays into who provides our energy as well as how weather defines our needs.  Similarly, we can make choices regarding when we consume energy and what investments we make to realize potential energy savings.  

Areas where we have less control with respect to energy include heating decisions.  For example, the climate in a region likely predicts the amount of heating required by homeowners in that region.  The following graph shows the intensity of heating necessary for typical inhabitants in a region.  The unit of measurement is the heating degree day (HDD) which is the annual summation of the number of days and number of degrees below the reference of 65 degrees F for the region.  As expected, northern regions typically demand greater heating intensity than do southern counterparts.  

Similarly, cooling requirement exert their own demand on energy resources.  The corresponding unit of intensity is the cooling degree day (CDD), which is the annual summation of the number of days and number of degrees above the reference of 65 degrees F for the region.  Unsurprisingly, southern regions typically demand greater cooling intensity than do northern counterparts.  

Choosing Control for Energy

Returning to the subject at hand, we note the presence of a grey zone somewhere between control and choice.  As an example, we recognize that the buildings we inhabit vary widely.  Not only were they built at different times with different materials, but they are also maintained differently and rely upon different systems.  Specifically, we may heat our homes with natural gas, oil, electricity, or other fuel types.  Similarly, we may cool with heat pumps, swamp coolers, or simple ventilation.  Beyond that, we all rely upon lots of other appliances -- which further differ by age and technology.  Not to mention the meters on the outside of our homes!  

Clearly, once constructed, we lose most of any choice available around the materials and systems in our homes.  However, we are left to our own free will with respect to how well we maintain our homes as well as on what schedule we choose to control temperature -- and at what intensity.  For example, do we set our thermostat to 65 F all day on a 100-degree day?  

Making Choice Rational -- and Savings Real!

With so much variety, generalized tips  for energy efficiency (such as those we may receive in our monthly utility bill) may not convince us to act.  Instead, customizing our energy choices provides more compelling motivation.  In this spirit, the Emporia Vue provides real-time data that helps consumers tailor recommendations to achieve optimal value.  Based upon their own unique behavioral traits.  Further, the Vue encourages consumers to personalize how they provide and receive information via mobile app, allowing them customized fit in home energy management.

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