Going to the DOGS

by Ethan Goldman, Energy Informatics Architect

Data can be very powerful. Today, I want to examine the importance of context in making that data truly empowering.

What is Data On GraphS? 

Where energy data is concerned, here is how the conversation often begins. 

ENERGY EXPERT: “I know: let’s review the last week’s hourly data.” 

SECOND ENERGY EXPERT: “Baseline looks pretty low- but do I see an increased plug load?” 

ENERGY CUSTOMER: “All I see is a bunch of lines…?” 

Unfortunately, it is often the case that the conversation ends there. This is a phenomenon, referred to as Energy Data On GraphS (or EDOGS), in which those who work with energy data all the time get very excited by its potential – but forget that without providing context, and recommendations for how it can be used to achieve energy savings, it actually does not amount to much. In other words, if customers do not have access to guidance and perspective that helps them understand what the data really means, then all it can ever be is lines on a graph.

Bringing energy data to life

Context can also go a long way in ensuring that an abundance of energy data is not paralyzing.

The example that I often give is of a family that starts monitoring their electric usage. They see an enormous spike as they turn on their cooking range to prepare dinner. In a panic about the impact of their usage on the environment, they stop cooking and pile into their SUV to eat out at a restaurant. Although their intentions were good, this is one case where tracking their electric usage and thinking about what caused the spike actually led to a result that was the opposite of what they intended.

Stepping back from that story, it is clear that the family could have benefited from additional context and guidance. And yet, it is certainly not practical – or cost-effective – for every home and business to have an in-person energy advisor to parse out their data and help inform their choices. With Efficiency Vermont just a call or email away, though, we can get pretty darn close. 

The key takeaway: while good data can be extremely illuminating, there will always be a complimentary – and very important - role for human intelligence in actually making it useful. 

If you are interested in learning more about your own EDOG, there is a new generation of energy data analysis and visualization tools, which can help both customers and energy advisors to spot more opportunities to save. Efficiency Vermont is testing one of those systems in a residential study that starts soon. Vermonters interested in participating should call 888-921-5990 or email info@efficiencyvermont.com for more information. I look forward to exploring more about the study, and what energy data might mean for your home or business, in future posts.

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