May 17, 2012

Does energy efficiency really matter?

We believe that the “cost of owning things” will play a much larger role in how we buy things.

Written by
Kyle S.

The idea of doing came to us when we realized how difficult it was to figure out how much we pay for the energy consumption of an individual product. The best thing we found was and for appliances there is but these don’t actually tell you what you personally will be paying for energy. These ratings use assumptions for how much you will be using a product and national averages for the utility rates leading to energy cost projections that can be significantly different from what your personal cost would actually be. How significant? We’ll get to this in a minute.

So we started to build Enervee by identifying all the data and the calculations we would need to show the personalized cost of owning a product and after a few months we had put together a prototype using local utility rates and electricity consumption for about a hundred televisions. The big question we wanted to answer was if the differences between products, utility providers and usage behavior really made a significant difference.

In other words — would people really care about seeing these “cost of owning things” when they are shopping. We quickly realized that the difference in energy use between otherwise comparable TVs was huge. Differences of a factor 5x are not uncommon — but what we found even more amazing was how significant the differences were depending on your utility provider and how much you would use the TV. Have a look at the comparison below. Depending on how much and where you use it the electricity cost for the same TV over 5 years can cost you about $160 in Tacoma, WA or over $2,350 on Maui.

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When you look at the bottom section of the screenshots you can see there is not only a huge difference in electricity used but an even larger difference in the amount of greenhouse gas that is produced by using this particular TV with the selected utility providers. The amount of carbon dioxide produced in the example on Maui is 5.4 tons compared to 23 lbs for the Tacoma example over the same 5 years. The equivalent in emissions from consumed gasoline is 545 gallons vs. 1 gallon.

Looking at the data for more product categories we were quickly convinced that most people would care to know about these differences in cost to them and to the environment. Researching it more we found something else that made us quite certain that most people would care about energy cost if the information was more accessible and actionable to them. Looking at the historical development of energy prices in the US you can see that, adjusted for inflation, today they are well above 1973 levels (+163%) while raw materials and food are far less (-58%). And many predict that the big increase in energy cost is yet to come.

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Looking at all this we believe that information about the “cost of owning things” will play a much larger role in how we buy things.

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