Americans waste $146 billion on energy each year, but several groups are aiming to help people rein in their utility costs - and get rewards in the process. One example is MyEnergy, a free website that lures users with incentives from free snacks to restaurant coupons for cutting down on their energy bills.
The MyEnergy website allows users to track their energy spending against neighbors, family and friends and offers rewards to those who reduce their monthly bills. "It shows you how you compare with all the other homes like you in your area," said Ben Bixby, CEO of MyEnergy.
Users have averaged annual savings of $250 -- adding up to an annual reduction of 14 percent off normal utility bill costs.
"It allows you as a household to get this big source of spending out there in front of many people in the home," Bixby said, since spouses, roommates and children could all be added on a single MyEnergy account. "When four people see it, it's that much more likely whether someone does something about it."
MyEnergy uses information directly from utility companies as well and offers its service to residents across the U.S. People can log on to the site using a Facebook (FB) or Google (GOOG) account, or create a new username and password. Then, they are required to give their utility account numbers and passwords to MyEnergy so they can sync user's information from their providers. Bixby assures that the process is secure and doesn't require any other personal information, such as Social Security numbers.
"It will automatically retrieve all of your utility data and put you right on the map to show you how you compare with all the other homes like you in your area," Bixby said.
Users can track their utility usage against neighbors or other people in the same area code.
Each person can track their own goals and cash in on reward points for items ranging from a free month's supply of Popchips to $50 local restaurant coupons. Users can also get discounts on gourmet gift baskets, water bottles and Karma WiFi hotspots, Bixby said.
Utility bills take out a big chunk of disposable income in many households and usually only one person sees the bill, he added.
Here are a few tips to cut your utility bills:
- Wash your laundry in cold water. It saves 90 percent of energy compared to a hot water spin cycle.
- Use smart power strips to plug in your cable box and DVD player. Program them to turn off when you power down your TV.
- Throw in dryer balls before drying your clothes to help your laundry get dry in half the time.
- Use a programmable thermostat to ensure your heater isn't on full power when no one's home. Bixby said this can save a household up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.
- Consult a Home Energy Advisor from Energy Star to find home improvement tips that could help you trim energy usage.