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green living

People always talk about keeping up with the Joneses in a bad way, but a recent article in USA Today made me realize there are ways to keep up with the Joneses that are not only good for your pocketbook but good for the environment as well.

According to the article there are now over 1 million household in the United States who receive reports on the energy consumption of their neighbors. The utilities utilizing the reports have seen a a 2-3% decrease in energy consumption where the reports are being utilized. Some people are complaining about an invasion of privacy but the reports are generalized to give you an idea of what others around you are consuming.

Being a suburban dad it doesn’t surprise me that this reporting method actually results in the reduction of energy consumption and being “green.” By providing a report showing you are less frugal and consuming more than your neighbors people are not so subtly encouraged to reduce their own consumption.

Some of the utilities had even started using smily or frowny faces to show how certain households ranked amongst their neighbors. Other utilities were rating homes as average, above, or below average. It turns out people really didn’t like having a big fat frowny faces telling them they sucked at conserving energy, in both instances the utilities stopped “rating” consumption.

I personally think this is a pretty good way to make people not only more aware of how much energy they are using but to also encourage them to reduce their energy usage. If the guy who keeps his house at 72 in the winter and 68 in the summer saw what he was paying compared to his neighbors it would make a pretty big difference, I know it would to me.

Readers: Do you currently get one of these reports? Has it helped you to reduce your consumption?
What if we took this idea and expanded it into other areas like garbage and recycling?

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Programmable thermostats can save you a pile of money throughout their lifetime, according to the energy star website you can save up to $180 a year by using an Energy Star thermostat set to the default settings and maintaining them throughout the year.  A programmable thermostat allows you set the temperature in your house to be higher or lower based on the specific time of the day. You can find thermostats which allow you to set programs for all seven days of the week, one program for the week and one for each weekend day (5 + 1+1), and one program for the week and one for the weekend (5+2). Energystar.gov recommends at least the following settings for your thermostat:

energystar-recommended

I set out to find the best bang for my buck and I settled on the LUX TX9000TS (pictured right). This bad thermostatboy has a touchscreen and is a seven day programmable thermostat.  This model additionally tracks the number of hours the system has been on for the month, and has a filter replacement notification.  You can easily override the settings if you need it hotter or cooler in the middle of a program.  The great thing about thermostats is their ease of installation. To hook up my new thermostat all I had to do was, 1.) turn off the power, 2.) remove the old thermostat, and 3.) hook up the new one. My particular model was a four wire system, some are five wire, hooking it up was as easy as pulling the wires off the old and hooking it up to the corresponding position on the new. I use a max temperature of 68 and I set it back to 60 during my off periods.

I won’t enter a complete verdict yet on whether or not I have saved money on this endevor I have seen a slight reduction in my gas usage but the utility estimated my usage last month so it isn’t exact.  Even based on the Energy Star estimates it is going to take me at least 1.5 years to get my money back. Of course you can do a lot better if you only need a 5+2 system. I work from home so I wanted the flexibility to alter it by day. Do you have a programmable thermostat, and if so do you think it has saved you money on your utilities?

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