Economics, Environment, Government, Science

There’s No Hot Water

Shower

Shower time: the best moment of the day.

Thankfully, the EPA is taking a closer look at us in the shower.

It turns out that the Environmental Protection Agency has made the important decision to fund the University of Tulsa, which will study the showering practices of America’s hotel guests from sea to shining sea.

Boarding house lineup

“There’s an alarm clock in the sink. Hit it when you’re out.”

Their goal is to develop an app which will monitor our shower usage when we are nipping out to the local hotel for a relaxing sojourn in the tub.

According to U of T, hotel guests are using in excess of 17 gallons of water for a shower. Their proposal: we should limit the wash to 15.5 gallons.

Basically, cut a minute off the most important moment of the day.

"You're kidding me.  I just got here!"

“Already? And you want a tip?”

They report this is easily accomplished by turning off the shower while we are lathering.

Tulsa engineers suggest we can further reduce wasted water by taking “navy showers”, i.e.. freezing buck naked in the stall waiting for warm water.

accounting

“You know, this could run into money!”

Apparently, the U of T engineers are working on an app that will monitor shower water usage by room, and transmit the data, real time, to the hotel’s accounting department.  The proposed objective here is to modify guests’ shower behavior.

May we also suggest more group showers?   It used to be that Mrs. Jones’ boarding house filled the tub once, and from there, we all lined up for a dunk like kids.

"Not a chance.  I just got here."

“Not a chance. I just got here.”

Wisely, the U of T engineers have not proposed twosomes to save water, as the likelihood of less shower time is imaginatively remote.

There is a logical extension in the offing, and that is to enlist the services of outside peer-scoring agencies like the renowned OPower company which has quite successfully modified electrical and natural gas usage.

"With all due respect, your numbers suck, big time."

OPower: “We suggest you skip the conditioner.”

Using meter readings from over 60 million households nationwide OPower has delivered energy savings pushing 5% and more, while simultaneously improving utility company satisfaction ratings.

OPower’s reports provide comparative peer group scores, and also offer energy saving tips to the consumer.

Cowbiy Tub

“Time’s up Jarrod. Ranch boys are lined up waiting’ on ya.”

We can see this as a no-brainer in the hospitality industry, where consumers can receive regular reports on their shower usage at the local hotel, or the inn down the road in the next town.

After a few report rotations it would be no surprise if shower usage shrank considerably.

No doubt, the hotel’s satisfaction ratings will skyrocket too.

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Economics, Environment

Gassed: How Our Utility Co Turns Down The Heat

Odds are, if you get a gas bill, you are also getting a report card in the mail too.

      "Loser!"

             “Loser!”

Our gas company mailed us a Home Energy Report for last month, telling us how we stacked up against our uproariously wasteful and spendthrift neighbors.

Turns out: WE are worse than them.

It is a sad reality that I respond to competitive taunts, and right now, our gas company is yanking my chain.

You see, they previously sent us a report for last winter.   It had a little smiley face–which really is smirking–that says “GOOD”.

But I know what it’s thinking: “LOSER!”

"Good maybe, but not great."

“Good maybe, but not great.”

Beside Mr. Smiley is a bar chart that highlights our “Efficient Neighbors” in green. These are the raucous ones last New Years Eve that roasted a quarter steer on the gas grill while they played Marco Polo in a mammoth hot tub.  They have 9 kids, two washing machines and a greenhouse.

"With all due respect, your numbers suck, big time."

“With all due respect Mr. Brown, your numbers suck, big time.”

Then the report shows a longer blue bar — which is bad–that is entitled “YOU”.  In bold.

So I am now energized (hah hah) to understand how our humble little household can possibly respond to this blatant miscall.

I wonder if the gas company is playing with me.

There was once a TV movie in which a dad and his son fill up the neighbor’s gas tank every night to listen to him brag about his car’s great mileage.    Then after a few weeks, they siphon gas out every night to hear him complain about the guzzler he is driving.

Is there a prankster somewhere in the seventh floor of an office building in Chicago who is twiddling with my score, just to see how I react?

dr-zhivago-datcha-600

                                               “Just check that thermostat again.”

Worse yet, maybe they are not playing tricks at all.   Maybe our modest ranch is actually a gas-guzzling super nova.  A galactic black hole sucking energy into a cosmic chimney.

That might account for the drafts.

I am going to give the gas company the benefit of the doubt for the moment.   When I investigated the source of these reports, I learned that they come from a company called Opower.

There is a lab-coated millennial there who is modifying my “demand response behavior” while flipping through Hunger Games.

Essentially, Opower has placed my house on a giant leader board with about 50 million other households, and lo and behold, we are not on the top of the list.

Dinner at our neighbors.

Dinner at our neighbors.

I’d like to see the hermit who is.  Probably dressed in yak skins and eating his fish raw.

To their credit, however, they have shamed enough people in the last few years to reduce natural gas consumption nearly 2%.

And what is more confounding, improved consumer satisfaction ratings for the gas company by 5 points!

Talk about a world upside down.   Running against the natural order of things.

Our new HVAC guy, en repose.

Our new HVAC guy, en repose.

I am not beaten though.   I will climb that list.   I will lay down a 2-foot-thick blanket of moss in our attic.   Line the windowpanes with hay bales.   Wrap the basement in a giant Snuggie and remove the furnace.

Better yet, I will hang out with our neighbors.

Thanks for reading!  If you get these reports too, I feel for you.   But they are actually a pretty useful tool.   Unless you live in the woods.

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direct mail, Economics, Environment

Zapped: How Your Utility Saves Energy

ComEd 2014 -06 273 doubleCommonwealth Edison is craftier than you might think, compared to the traditional image of the big, dumb, power company.

We are used to receiving their monthly ransom note.   It is comprehensive in detail, reducing our extravagant lifestyle to bar charts that rise and fall with every change in the weather.  But beyond the normal appeal for money, we now receive a separate Home Energy Report.

The statement has no billing or stern demands.   Instead, it reports how your household is doing compared to the neighbors.   ComEd 2014 -06 barsThat’s right, compared to the igloo on your left whose roof is sooted with burnt whale oil.  Or to the right, your very private neighbor who has lights blazing in the basement, around the clock.

ComEd 2014 -06 270 SmileyOur report gave us a couple of smiley faces.    In the energy world, happiness is about abstinence, and we have aced, barely on the grid at all.

The report said in essence: “Compared to 100 close-by neighbors you are living the life of Scrooge in the dark; you must be cold at night, and survive on canned food and powdered eggs, since you don’t have a fridge, let alone AC.   P.S. Have a nice day.”

Careful review of this colorful, and highly personalized report reveals that the news comes from a company called Opower.

Not to be mistaken for, or associated with a day-time talk show queen, Opower serves some 93 utility companies across the U.S., Canada and globally.   It ingests and assembles all energy usage information to create report cards for over 32 million households.

ComEd 2014 -06 270LinesAt first, this looks like an unnecessary expense, adding to our monthly bill.  It turns out however, that peer pressure is a powerful motivator.   Opower’s reporting service has reduced electrical energy usage by 4 billion kilowatt-hours since inception.     That is roughly one-third of your average nuclear power plant’s yearly production.

So why does Com Ed benefit from cutting output?   ComEd 2014 -06 SavingsAnd why spend extra money generating reports to reduce utility billings?  Because building new plants to meet energy demand is very, very expensive, and guess who is paying for them– us.   It further turns out that Com Ed’s customer satisfaction rates have bumped up since the reports started.   Consumers are educated and empowered (haha).

The darker side of the energy reports is the growing suspicion about our 100 neighbors.   I think they are having more fun.

 

If you enjoyed this, or know someone who would, be sociable, share!  Thanks for reading.

 

 

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