For some homeowners, low electric bills are not enough of an incentive to install LED lighting and other energy-efficient devices. Sure, there are fringe benefits (like better visibility and the convenience of a 35,000+ hour lifespan per LED bulb), but why stop at merely saving when you can also earn rewards?
The NYT reports that a growing number of utility companies are partnering up with businesses and app developers to help inspire their customers to use less energy. Opower, a home energy management company, sends subscribers a report detailing how their usage stacks up against that of their neighbors, granting smiley face badges to exceptional savers. This social approach relies on customers’ satisfaction from helping their community reach an energy goal, as well as on their competitive nature.
As for those who care less about keeping up with the Joneses than about cold hard ca$h, there are discounts and gift cards. Duke Energy sends out vouchers for cold water formula detergent to encourage customers to give their water heaters a rest. C3 uses demographic information to reward points that customers can redeem at local and national stores. (For example: Young children in your household? Enjoy a Staples gift certificate in time for back to school season.)
And of course, there are the ubiquitous rebates for LED light bulbs and programs that give away CFLs (which, at this point, seem to serve the main purpose of getting rid of the cheap ghastly things before newer LED bulbs take center stage).
Why do energy companies want us to consume less of what they sell? Because the consequences of not curbing energy use – like power outages, or construction of new plants to meet high demand – are way more expensive for them than the alternative. That makes LED systems and other green upgrades a rare Win for all: for utility companies, for homeowners, and of course, for the environment.