2012-10-31

Co.Exist

Households That Vote Use Less Electricity

Is conserving power a civic responsibility? People who go to the polls (for either party) are more interested in it than those who don’t.

Civic responsibility breeds responsibility in other areas of life. It sounds cliche, but it’s more true than you might think according to an analysis from energy efficiency company Opower.

The company, which offers energy management tools for utilities and customers, sifted through its database to find electricity consumption data from 137,000 households (in either one eastern U.S. state or one western state) that also have public records indicating how many elections the head of household has voted in over the past eight years. The result: People who vote use less power.

After considering the 10 various elections that people could vote in since 2004, the correlation becomes fairly clear—voting goes up, electricity use goes down. Note: East coasters use more power because they rely more often on electricity for heat, not because they’re energy gluttons.

The differences are even more striking when Opower separates homes into “rare voters,” “sometimes voters,” and “frequent voters.”



Opower has a handful of guesses as to why this is happening. It’s not because voters have smaller homes—all surveyed households average 1,900 to 2,000 square feet. And voters aren’t any more likely to use gas furnaces or other non-electric heating sources. But the average age of voters may have something to do with it. In Opower’s survey, frequent voters had an average age of 60, while "sometimes" voters averaged 55 and "infrequently" voters came in at 52. This is consistent with other studies on voter age.

At the same time, older voters tend to use less electricity, possibly because they have fewer electronic gadgets, fixed incomes (meaning they’re more thrifty), and generally have older children that have moved out of the house.

There’s more to it than that, though. Opower explains in a blog post: "Our analysis of the relationship between voting frequency and electricity usage suggests that, beyond age, there is something special about politically engaged Americans that also leads them to consume less energy." In the company’s analysis, every ballot cast by a voter between 2004 and 2010 was associated with a 66 kilowatt drop in annual electricity usage. That’s about $8 worth of electricity.

Opower puts forth a handful of theories about this: patriotism (and hence awareness of energy security), the higher level of engagement on issues like energy among voters, and faith in the power of individual actions like voting or saving energy.

We’d tend to agree with the latter point. If you’re the kind of person who thinks voting is pointless because no single vote decides anything, it would make sense for you not to care as much about your power consumption—after all, you probably think it doesn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

Maybe the key to getting people to care about energy efficiency is civic engagement. But with just over half of Americans participating in recent presidential elections, we have a lot of work to do.

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3 Comments

  • Ray

    Sustainable Energy Concepts:

    Currently all wind capturing
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    use
    of ripstop nylon windsocks, with a flat ripstop nylon hose attached to
    the tails. Route the wind
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    This technique is much faster, cheaper, and safer than anything currently used or proposed.

    Combine this new technique with this new technique.

    How Our World Can Use 50% Less Watt-hours of Electricity:Here's a new concept of reducing the Watt-hours used by 50%, by doubling the
    electricity's frequency, using a variable frequency drive in series
    with a diode, to power various devices.If an electric clock is powered at twice its frequency, then
    it will run
    twice as fast. If the power is half-wave rectified, then it will run on
    time using half of the Watt-hours.
    This works! It electronically quickly turns the power ON and OFF. The
    power is switched OFF 50% of the time. The Watt-hours used are reduced
    by 50%. The frequency must be doubled to make the ON and OFF cycle quick
    enough. For example: 60 Hertz power has 120 ON pulses (or half-cycles)
    per second. Therefore 120 Hertz, half-wave rectified, is needed to have
    120 ON pulses and 120 OFF pulses per second. This results in a 50%
    reduction of the Watt-hours used. Please try it using an incandescent light
    bulb.

    It can be easily empirically tested by obtaining an appropriate variable frequency drive and diodes.The ON and OFF cycle won't be visually perceived in lighting for the same reason that flicker isn't perceived in animation.

    If 50 or 60 Hertz is half-wave rectified, the light will glow brown,
    but you will be using 50% less Watt-hours of electricity. As you
    increase the frequency, the light will get brighter and brighter, still
    using 50% less Watt-hours of electricity. Eventually you will not see
    any difference in the light's brightness and you will still be using 50%
    less Watt-hours of electricity.

    It
    won't be cheap, but it can be done slowly, over time, by the utility.Double the electricity's frequency after the neighborhood's step-down
    transformer and then half-wave rectify it in the drop wires to the
    consumer. You will be using 50% less Watt-hours of electricity, much
    less fossil fuels and pollution.It's a win/win solution for everyone!

  • Ray

    This works! It electronically quickly turns the power ON and OFF. The
    power is switched OFF 50% of the time. The watt-hours used are reduced
    by 50%. The frequency must be doubled to make the ON and OFF cycle quick
    enough. For example: 60 Hertz power has 120 ON pulses (or half-cycles)
    per second. Therefore 120 Hertz, half-wave rectified, is needed to have
    120 ON pulses and 120 OFF pulses per second. This results in a 50%
    reduction of watt-hours used. Please try it using an incandescent light
    bulb.

  • Ray

    Please verify a new concept of reducing watt-hours used by 50%, by doubling the
    electricity input frequency, using a variable frequency drive in series
    with a diode, to power various devices.

    If an electric clock is powered at twice its frequency, then
    it will run
    twice as fast. If the power is half-wave rectified, then it will run on
    time using half of the watt-hours.