Tuesday, March 31, 2009


WattzOn is a cool website with two compelling features: a Quicken-like personal energy calculator and an embodied energy database.

The energy calculator allows you to determine your personal energy use. This lets you how much total energy you are using and what accounts for the largest share. Most other energy and CO2 calculators just look at home electricity, natural gas and gasoline usage. This goes a step beyond that by allowing you to calculate the energy used to manufacture all of the stuff you have purchased using data from their embodied energy database. It also includes the energy that the government uses, with every citizen given an equal share (3,174W in my case). The interface is easy to use and allows you can determine what the impact of various lifestyle changes would be.

Once you have entered all your personal information, it has some cool visualizations that put your consumption into perspective. You can see how many square feet of solar panels would be required to support your energy consumption. You can also check how large of a wind turbine, how many 60W light bulbs, or how many gallons of oil a day would be needed. You can also compare your consumption with your friends or the average American. On visualization I wish they would add is "energy slaves" using that fact that each person runs on approximately 100W.

The embodied energy database stores how much energy it took to manufacture various products. If you ever wondered how much energy it took to produce a futon, a laptop computer, or a magazine, now you can look it up.

It is setup Wikipedia style where anyone can add or edit information. The upside to this is that hopefully it will become a central repository for all such information and lots of people will contribute. The downside is that there are no standards and it isn't clear what assumptions were used, how numbers were actually calculated or what the source of the data is. Another good thing they have done is setup free public APIs to allow developers access to this data for use in their own web applications.

I think this site has a lot of potential. A large database of embedded energy of products with good data would be immensely useful. To do that they will need to standardize how the numbers are calculated and give greater transparency as to where they came from. Besides tracking energy, the database could easily be extended to record additional information such as water usage, CO2 emissions and man hours. This would allow for other interesting environmental calculations to be done.

It would also be great if data for the energy calculator could be updated automatically with every purchase you made. One way to do this would be with an iPhone app where you could just take a picture of everything you purchased (or the barcode) to enter it. Another way would be to have credit card information integrated, so you could capture the data from those purchases with no additional input (similar to how Quicken does).

The personal energy calculator and the embodied energy database are both very useful and I can't wait to see how WattzOn improves upon them.

WattzOn was also reviewed by Earth2Tech, Lifehacker and TreeHugger.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.