The average American home spends more than $2,000 a year on residential energy bills. Many people simply consider energy a cost of living, like rent, or other things that are simply out of our control. But there’s plenty of money to be saved by saving energy, it just requires a bit of effort. An app called WattzOn seeks to help you save energy, save money, and save the planet — and soon, it might be partnering with your bank.
Founded in 2008 by Steven Ashby and Martha Amram, WattzOn is an easy-to-use free service that shows you ways to cut back on your energy. WattzOn unveiled its platform last week at Finovate, a financial technology conference. According to Ashby, particularly motivated users — either budget-conscious or green-hearted — can reasonably expect to save as much as 20 percent using his service. Even less motivated users can save 10 to 15 percent, he said in a phone interview with MyBankTracker.
The app works in a three-step process. Users fill out a survey about their home energy use, WattzOn compares your energy bills to similar homes in your area, then it makes a personalized plan for you to save money on your energy bills. Users can even link WattzOn to their utility accounts for more accurate recommendations — nearly 100 utilities allow read-only access for the service. But WattzOn doesn’t partner with the utilities; they’d rather partner with your bank or credit union.
“Historically a lot of the efforts around energy conservation were really driven by either utility PR campaigns or the like, but not really a consumer standpoint,” said Ashby. And besides, utilities, for all their efforts, still need to sell energy. “For many utilities,” said Ashby, “[customer savings is] not necessarily the top thing on their minds.” WattzOn prefers to work directly with consumers, and it does so by leveraging its extensive data.
“We try to triangulate the best of our own proprietary data with the best third-party and governmental data sources” — the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley Labs, to be specific — “to come up with the highest quality highest resolution analysis and recommendations,” said Ashby. WattzOn uses seasonal curves of local energy usage that helps it identify how and where you might be able to save.
“A home in Arizona will very likely use a lot of electricity in the summer because they’re using air conditioning,” said Ashby. “But they usually don’t need that much heat in the winter. Now if you have a place in say, Washington D.C., they also might use a fair amount of air conditioning in the summer, but would [also] use a lot of heat, which might mean a lot of natural gas in the winter.”
WattzOn’s data is specialized and tailored not only to your home’s size and number of occupants, but also to your climate — it offers silver buckshot, not a silver bullet, said Ashby. Users can even tell WattzOn what sort of car they drive, and WattzOn will plug in its MPG estimates to help people figure out ways to save there as well.
For banks, there are excellent opportunities for marketing tie-ins, and Ashby hinted that WattzOn might soon announce some partnerships. Banks can easily use WattzOn to market car loans, home equity lines of credit for home improvement projects and credit cards for buying appliances, said Ashby.
Saving energy requires the ability to understand a product or investment’s total lifetime cost, which is a different consideration than its actual retail value. A $400 energy efficient dishwasher might look like a worse value than a $300 standard one, said Ashby, but when you factor its lifetime energy costs in, it’s likely cheaper. Similarly a Prius is more expensive than a used Buick, but one will pay for itself and the other will not. Photovalic panels aren’t cheap, but they’ll hopefully make their money back. Of course these investments require capital upfront, and who better to step in than your bank?
“Thirteen cents out of every dollar an American spends goes to home energy bills and their cars. It’s a massive, massive thing,” said Ashby. “If we and a partner can help people recapture five cents of that it’s just gigantic.”