Thursday, March 26, 2009

The "takeback effect": When efficiency breeds extravagance

From USA Today comes this story of consumers sabotaging their own energy-saving efforts.

According to the story, when consumers buy energy-efficient products, they overuse the products, negating any energy savings. The result: no financial payoff to switching from inefficient devices.

Experts call it the Snackwell Effect, named after the phenomenon of health-conscious consumers who stack up on Snackwells, the low-calorie cookies.

The story cites several studies showing small or no declines in energy bills after installing energy-efficient devices.

This doesn't mean we should all give up on buying efficient appliances. It means that some consumer behavior may need to be modified.

The story suggests use of "devices that tell people how much electricity they use hour-by-hour, so they know the power consumed by a particular appliance."

Two such devices spring to mind. One is the Kill A Watt, which you insert between your appliance and an electrical outlet. The device tells you how much power the appliance consumes.

And the other is, of course, a smart meter.

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