Manage your energy use with these handy apps
By Anne Prince
Tracking your steps, tracking your children, monitoring your banking activity or locating your parked car––these days, it seems like there is an app for everything. If you are efficiency-savvy and want to manage your energy use, there may be an app that works for you. While there are several energy use apps to choose from, some can be difficult to use, particularly those aimed at general efficiency. There are no clear standouts, so try a few, and choose the app that works best for you.
Purchasing a smart thermostat for your home is a great way to begin managing your energy use. But, if you are looking for a more granular way to obtain information about your energy use, an app can provide useful insight into how specific actions impact your utility bill. The following is a snapshot of a few energy efficiency mobile apps. All of the apps mentioned in this article are available for Apple and Android systems.
Owned by Google, created by Nest Labs and linked only to the Nest thermostat, this free app has several useful features. You can adjust your home thermostat by simply using your smart phone, iPad or iTouch––whether in your car or on your couch. App users can view and edit a thermostat schedule and keep an eye on how much energy is being used. You can also opt to receive extreme temperature alerts before your pet overheats or your pipes freeze. In addition, there is an option for smoke and carbon monoxide alerts, among others.
Together We Save
Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives offers the Together We Save app, which enables users to calculate the energy use of many household appliances based on national averages. This free app includes roughly 100 calculators that determine the projected energy use and cost of particular appliances and activities. The app also offers 100 practical energy-saving tips. For Touchstone Energy® Cooperative members, the Together We Save app calculates energy costs based on your actual utility rates for even greater accuracy.
The Smart Hub app transmits utility data enabling consumers to see near real-time information about their energy use. Essentially, this app helps customers better understand how and when they use energy. The Smart Hub app was developed by National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) and uses the same data as the Smart Hub web portal. While all members can pay their utility bill using their mobile device, pre-pay customers can also view their balance. For members who have solar PV systems installed at their home, the app enables them to check their offset power compared to their purchased power.
Like the Nest app, the Lennox iComfort app is only compatible with Lennox products – in this case, the Wi-Fi thermostat. It has similar features to the Nest, in that users can remotely control their home thermostat and other settings. In addition, the app allows users to program the system to an energy savings “away mode” when no one is home. For example, you can select the settings you wish to run, then cancel the “away mode” as you return home to ensure a comfortable temperature awaits you.
Your trusted energy resource
While these apps employ the latest technology to maximize your ability to manage your use, the next generation of energy apps will likely integrate across multiple platforms––managing your thermostat, appliances, water heater, home electronics and other devices from the convenience of your smart phone. In the meantime, while app technology continues to evolve, your best resource for saving energy and money is your local electric co-op.
Your electric cooperative can provide guidance on energy savings based on your account information, local energy use and weather patterns for your region and other factors unique to your location.
Anne Prince writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.