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A practical journey to becoming a smart energy consumer.

The Fragile Commitment of the New Green Consumer

When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to maintain your commitment. For years, environmentalists have sorted trash to recycle and protested for stricter emissions standards. They’ve paid a premium for energy-efficient products. But what about consumers that are on the fence? Those who want to be environmentally responsible, but won’t chase it any cost? Setbacks in their early efforts to choose greener products and services can quickly shatter the best intentions.

Microsoft and Google Pull the Plug

Last week marked a setback for consumers looking to track and manage their home energy consumption. In 2009, Microsoft and Google launched services aimed at the nascent consumer home energy market. The two tech giants were looking to be the first to establish platforms for the anticipated wave of home energy management products. But in simple statements just days apart, both said that the services would be discontinued due to low adoption rates. How quickly they pulled the plug is disappointing, but speaks volumes about the challenge of innovating in the energy industry.

Sun Block: The High Cost Barrier to Solar Energy

I had fully intended to write a series of posts to chronicle my exploration of solar energy. I wanted to see what was blocking adoption at a consumer level and how those obstacles might affect my own decision. Was it the unclear purchasing process or government red tape? Was it a lack of education about the technology, benefits, and ultimate payoff? Or was it something as simple as the negative aesthetics of panels on your home? But after a couple of weeks of digging, one thing quickly became clear: Solar is just too expensive.

Navigating the Solar System

For most homeowners, investing in solar energy is a daunting proposition. Where do you start? How much will it cost? How much energy will it really produce? Are there local rebates and federal incentives available? These questions can quickly paralyze even the best intentions.

It’s Tax Time: Are You Getting Your Energy Credits?

For those living in the United States, April 15th marks one of those inevitable realities in life: it’s tax time. The close of the 2010 tax year brings an end to some great incentives for energy efficiency. But if you missed out in 2010, all is not lost. Here are some tips for reducing your taxes in 2011 with energy-saving upgrades to your home.

The Customer Side of the Meter

The energy industry needs to change. Rising oil prices, environmental concerns, and progressive consumer demand is creating new opportunities for innovation in the products we use, the way we buy energy, and the way it’s generated and distributed. But what are the barriers to change and how will we overcome them? Who is driving these changes? As a consumer, what can I expect on my side of the meter?

Building a Smarter Grid

I’m fortunate to live in Mueller, a vibrant, energy-conscious Austin, Texas neighborhood built on the site of the former municipal airport. Located only three miles from downtown, Mueller is the world’s largest LEED-ND certified community. LEED-ND is a U.S. Green Building Council rating system for neighborhood design that integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building. Because of Mueller’s unique central location and the generous footprint of the former airport, it offers a rare opportunity to build a smart community from scratch, right in the heart of the city.

A Month with the Other TED

After a few installation and customer service headaches, I’ve had my TED 5000 energy monitoring system  running for the last full month. It’s been an interesting experiment to see how heightened awareness of my home energy consumption might affect my usage habits.

Your Home’s Speedometer

We’ve posted many stories on design mind about TED, the thought-provoking global conference on Technology, Entertainment, and Design. But this story is about another “TED.” The Energy Detective (“TED”) is a product line of home energy monitors from South Carolina-based Energy, Incorporated. I’ve been looking for a way to track my daily electricity usage, so a month ago I purchased and installed a TED 5000-G. Time to see how well it works.

Real-time Energy Monitoring

For the last few months, I’ve been looking for practical ways to become a smarter energy consumer. I’ve looked at lighting options and new products. I’ve looked at ways to measure the energy consumption of individual appliances, in an attempt to learn more about their energy cost. Now I want to understand how it all adds up in my home.