smart spending

Home energy management can save you money

Consumer acceptance

The question is: Will such systems help you cut energy use and save you money?

"Initial studies have shown that consumers, once they're aware of their energy use, do make changes," says Hertzog. They may become more diligent about turning off the lights when leaving a room or running the clothes washer or dishwasher at night at lower rates.

Lucero says the systems can help consumers cut 5 percent to 15 percent from their bills. If your monthly utility bills average $75, you'll save $45 to $135 over a year. The key to ongoing savings is sticking with it, he says. If you lose interest after a few months, the benefits will disappear.

The use of these systems may become more widespread as more utilities introduce "time of use" rates to consumers, who would be asked to pay more for energy use in peak periods, says Alan Meier, senior scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. In fact, PG&E already has tiered pricing so that a customer's rate per kilowatt hour rises as he consumes more power, O'Brien says.

In the future, the systems are expected to become proactive, says Lucero. They'll send a signal to let you know the peak demand time for a specific day and ask if you want to delay running some appliances until the rates go down. By helping you better understand your energy use and cost, the systems can help you reduce your consumption. That, in turn, will help the environment and your bank account.

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