Quick, without looking at your utility bill- how much electricity did you use last month? How about yesterday? How much electricity are you pulling down from the grid at this very moment?
There's a chance you can answer the first question, though it's doubtful you'll have any luck with the other two. Americans, in general, have no idea how much energy they use on a daily basis. We just flip the light, turn on the TV, and start up the toaster oven. We get a bill at the end of the month and we pay it. That's about the sum total of our relationship with electricity. We use it, then we pay for it.
Leave it to some hackers (not the kind that break into computers, the kind that like to take things apart and put them back together in different ways to do cool things) to flip the way we use electricity on its head.
Enter the Tweet-a-watt.
MAKE magazine, an publication dedicated to all things hackary (the second kind) entered the Tweet-a-watt into the upcoming Greener Gadgets conference in NYC. The Tweet-a-watt uses a modified Kill A Watt, a plugin device that tells you exactly how much energy you use and what it's costing you, as the base in a contraption that sends out regular updates on energy use on the microblogging platform Twitter (follow me there).
You can go to Tweet-a-watts home page and follow along as the device sends updates throughout the day on its energy use.
It's geeky, totally wonkish, and exactly what our country needs. Studies have been done showing that when people are aware of their daily energy use, they end up cutting back their consumption by up to 20%. Simply knowing how much energy we are using and how much its costing at that time (electricity costs different amounts to pull down the grid at different times of the day), can have a big impact on how often we turn things on.
Every house in America should come with energy monitor systems. For less than a few hundreds dollars each, homes could be outfitted with monitors that will pay for themselves in the first year or two. Multiply that buy a hundred million homes or so (there's about 116M homes in America) and you're looking at a lot of money saved and a few coal power plants that could probably be taken off line.
The good folks behind the Tweet-a-watts have posted detailed instructions for how you can build your own Twitter enabled energy monitor. If you don't want to wait for society to get around to installing them in your house you can jump the curve and do it yourself (assuming your a hacker god, it's not easy and requires some sodering and techy skillz).