TIME green living

Tracking Carbon Footprints and Saving Money: The Pecan Street Project

Walk around the Austin Mueller neighborhood in Texas’s capital city and you’ll see a modern planned, green community with homes that sport solar panels and garages that shelter electric cars. But the most important innovation in these homes can’t be seen by the casual observer. It is the smart circuitry that allows residents to track their homes’ electrical use appliance by appliance, in real time, showing clearly how they consume power and enabling them to reduce their power bills and minimize waste.

“You can literally see when a lightbulb is turned on,” says homeowner Dan McAtee. “It’s been educational.” He’s learned, for instance, to lower his monthly utility bill by using his most power-hungry appliances at night, when electricity costs less. And he knows just how much power is generated by the solar panels on his roof — far more than his family consumes, as it turns out, allowing them to send the surplus back into the grid.

McAtee’s home is one of more than a thousand participating in the Pecan Street Project, the most extensive smart grid in the United States. Since 2009, the project has provided homeowners incentives for installing renewable energy and buying plug-in electric vehicles, while also helping them reduce their carbon footprints.

Across the country, use of two-way “smart meters” has been growing, with more than 40 million already in use. Pecan Street meters are far more precise, however and provide both residents and their municipal utility, Austin Energy, with enormous amounts of constantly updated, detailed and actionable data that benefits both individuals and the community. When replicated in other cities, the system may help solve pressing environmental and infrastructure challenges affecting the entire country by making us smarter about how changing individual behavior can benefit society as a whole.


More Money Monday Roundup: 10 Immediate Benefits of Healthcare Reform & Outrageous Traffic Tickets

Personal finance from around the Web:

  • You’re sick of reading about healthcare reform, of course. But now that it’s passed, check this list of ten immediate benefits for you and your family. [Crooks and Liars]
  • Forget about getting an early look at those Wall Street analysts’ reports: A US District Judge ruled Thursday in favor of complaints brought by several financial services firms against Theflyonthewall.com for publishing their investment recommendations before the firms could communicate them to their clients. [Yahoo News]
  • Proof that it is, in fact, not easy being green: Recent studies suggest that the eco-friendly consumer is more prone to “miserly” behaviors in other aspects of his life. [Green Inc.]
  • You’re not the only one feeling old at work. While to some it may be “just a number,” the EEOC reports a 17 percent increase in age-discrimination complaints made since the start of the recession. [Newsweek]

Follow MONEY on Twitter at http://twitter.com/money.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com