Want to know how to save energy at home? Just Google it

Consumer Reports News: February 13, 2009 11:49 AM

If you think Google is a ubiquitous part of your life now, just wait. The search-engine giant has launched a new application designed to help you reduce your home energy use. Thanks to Google, there's no reason not to be able to find all kinds of facts both important and trivial, and soon you might have one less excuse for not trying to conserve energy.

Through the Google Foundation, Mountain View, California-based Google has debuted the PowerMeter application, which will appear on your iGoogle page, to help you monitor your electricity use at home and, claims the company, motivate you to slice that consumption by 5 to 15 percent. The (energy-waste) killer app is currently in prototype and is expected to be released later this year.

According to a Google FAQ, the PowerMeter "will allow you to see your own energy usage information and help you improve your efficiency in a variety of ways. The first way you'll see this tool in action is through a secure iGoogle gadget that will let you safely and privately browse your home electricity usage." The PowerMeter will use information from smart meters and energy monitors, like the Kill A Watt P4400: and the Watts Up we covered in this March 2009 story, to provide you with data that will spur you to conserve. (The graphic shown depicts how the PowerMeter might present home energy use.)

Even with such technological advances, it still pays to buy the most efficient appliances that fit your budget and lifestyle. So when you're shopping for a washing machine, refrigerator, air conditioner, or other energy-hungry appliances, use our energy-efficiency test results to find models that can help you reduce how much electricity you use at home. After all, given the hours of computer work you might do during your 9-to-5, a break from Google would be welcome.—Cyndi Schoenbrun and Steven H. Saltzman

Essential information: Use our energy-saving advice and discover which energy-related financial incentives you can take advantage of at home. And remember, an energy monitor can't decrease your electricity use on its own—the changes you make in your lifestyle will lead to savings. Start with this: For each degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you can cut your utility bill by 3 percent; for each degree you raise it during cooling season, you can cut your bill by 3 percent.

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