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Power Off to Dumb Dashboards
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Right Questions, Wrong Way of Asking
  • 7/24/2013 11:29:06 AM
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I'm less concerned with the power company and more concerned with the end of the article:

"Since the developers bypassed the what-data-do-we-need and what-should-we-measure questions, the users could understand how the tool worked and how it might be more efficient than a spreadsheet with 30 tabs and 10 years of data."

We should always be concerned about what data we need and what we should measure, but we won't get the answers we require unless we word our questions better.

And I've learned that the #1 way to never phrase the question is a literal "What data do we need?".  Users rarely ever give the right answer when asked so directly.

To figure out what data is needed, first find out from the user:

"What is the minimum requirements that would allow you to declare victory?"

Going back to the power company, shouldn't their dashboard allow you to declare what your goals are?  Who cares about your neighbours -- they're not you and they have their own motivations.  You should be able to dictate the smiley faces.  They should tell you what information you need (average cost to heat/cool this much space by this many degrees, this is how much power a standard fridge uses, etc) and then you dictate where the smiley faces fall based on your own standards (budget for the year, environmental impact, etc).

That way the power company removes a lot of the blame -- both from itself (because these are your standards you're comparing yourself to) and you (because they're not judging you).

Re: Power off to Dumb Dashboards
  • 7/24/2013 10:52:31 AM
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The baseline against which you are being measured is likely an empty house! I think a better option is using a home energy consumption monitor that just helps YOU be the best you can be. The NYT did something on them last year:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/11/business/energy-environment/home-energy-monitors-keep-track-of-energy-use.html?_r=0

Power off to Dumb Dashboards
  • 7/24/2013 10:32:48 AM
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I thoroughly agree with you Tricia.  I live in an all-electric townhouse.  It may even be in the development that you mention.  I get the "good" rating as well and cannot imagine what my "neighbors" are doing that I am not.  I have had my townhouse re-insulated and tested, which has allowed me to keep my thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer.  I also have an attachment to my heat pump compressor that turns it off at peak hours.  Last year, I replaced my major appliances with new ones including my refrigerator.  Recently I have been doing most of my clothes washes on cold water cycles only and drying on the "delicate" low heat setting.  Still only one smiley!

 

Maybe we are all doing better, so the ranking stays the same! :-)

Re: Talk about guilt!
  • 7/24/2013 8:56:01 AM
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First, the most likely high use of electricity is the refrigerator.  A separate freezer would be suspect if you have one.  If a refrigerator or freezer is over 10 years of age, it is not efficient.  Water heaters consume a lot of energy also.  (Keep the water heater temperature less than 140 in the warm season -- 120 degrees F is often recommended)  And insulation for the house is very important.

Second, the electric companies seem to have a state mandated requirement to encourage conservation which allows the cost of "communications" to be expensed and gives the regulators reason to allow rate increases.  Sorry but that is business.

Re: Talk about guilt!
  • 7/19/2013 5:42:34 PM
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@ Beth, I think you are probally right.  That makes a lot of sense. 

Re: Talk about guilt!
  • 7/19/2013 8:34:34 AM
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@SethBreedlove -- could be because many are still regulated and therefore following mandate.

Re: Talk about guilt!
  • 7/19/2013 1:32:22 AM
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Who is this energy efficient neighbor?  Is it the college kid who's saving electricy buy going out drinking everynight?

I've always thought is was interesting that the electric company was the one company actively trying to get people to use less of their product. But if they are, the why did PG&E engage in all those energy scams a decade ago? 

 

Re: Talk about guilt!
  • 7/18/2013 2:29:32 PM
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@Phoenix -- just came across this tool for measuring how much water you use doing everyday activities and thought of you given your issue with the toilet tax. Thought you might be interested in knowing that each toilet flush equals 4 gallons of water! 

Re: Talk about guilt!
  • 7/18/2013 12:07:54 PM
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It truly is. I do find the house type national average some what helpful since I don't want to go over that. We are also conserving as much as we can through CFL lighting and using the fans more than the AC etc. So every month I get some satisfaction when we manage to be below the national average. But the toilet tax is something that I find a bit difficult to understand. I guess they might be considering drainage costs etc. but still...

Re: Talk about guilt!
  • 7/18/2013 8:15:09 AM
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Oh well ... I'm sure they were delicious if you made them.  ;-)

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