Strange but true: If you use Yahoo for your email, you probably consume 11% more electricity each year than Gmail users. That’s 939 kilowatt-hours, or about $110 worth of power—almost a month’s worth of extra energy. The news comes from Opower, an energy information software company that partners with utilities. Opower examined the link between email address and electricity usage in 2.8 million households across the U.S. to come up with the results. What’s going on?
It’s not that Yahoo Mail itself somehow sucks up more energy than Gmail (though that would make for some serious Gmail bragging rights). Instead, it’s a number of lifestyle differences between users of the services.
Yahoo users, for example, tend to live in larger homes meaning they have greater energy needs. They also live in more suburban and rural areas, unlike city-dwelling Gmail users. But Yahoo Mail users also gobble more electricity per square foot than Gmail users, making them more inefficient energy consumers. The average Yahoo Mail-using home consumes 12% more electricity per square foot of living space than the average Gmail household.
But here’s the rub: According to Hunch.com and Experian, Gmail users are more likely to be young and single (the average age is 34 versus 38 for Yahoo Mail users), which means they probably go out more and have fewer people in their households. Gmail users are also more likely to be active travelers, keeping them out of the house even more. Those factors combined could also lead to lessened energy consumption.
It’s also possible that Gmail users are more interested in energy efficiency to begin with. There are approximately 10 million U.S. households that use Opower’s utility web-based energy-efficiency advice tools—and Gmail users are 30% more likely to sign up for an in-depth energy analysis than Yahoo Mail users. The next big challenge for energy providers, then, may be getting the kind of people who are more likely to use Yahoo to care more about consumption.