In yesterday's post on human powered devices I made the claim (well, repeated Alex's earlier claim) that such products help to make the invisible visible through visceral body awareness and instant energy feedback. Here are two different kinds of products that also seek to reveal hidden energy use:
The Kill A Watt device provides instant electricity use feedback when used with appliances in a home. Plug loads are one of the largest sources of a building's or home's energy use, and not something architects can control very well, since they are created by the things occupants bring into a building or home. Providing instant feedback on energy use on an appliance-by-appliance basis, the makers of Kill A Watt hope to educate people on the efficiency of their appliances and help to lower their electricity bills.
The Inlet-Outlet seeks to provide home electricity feedback in the other direction. The concept, developed by Carla Diana and Jeff Hoefs for the Greener Gadgets Design Competition, imagines a new kind of outlet that can take energy produced kinetically in a home and feed it back into the power grid. The ultimate goal of the Inlet-Outlet is to "encourage the development of new devices that harness energy to feed back into the grid."
Learning about electricity use through a feedback device like Kill A Watt can quickly and immediately reduce energy consumption through behavior modification and is part of the strategy for developing smart grid infrastructure. Sharing energy produced in the home is another piece of the smart grid puzzle. The Inlet-Outlet concept is an exciting vision for how homes could generate power beyond solar panels, and exploit untapped kinetic energy (see "Piezoelectrics to Harness Power from Breath" for more on how "the prospect of harnessing kinetic energy from simple body movements to produce electrical power has moved one step closer, thanks to researchers at Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology.").
Taschen has included this concept in their new book "Product Design in the Sustainable Era," a preview of which is available online at http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/design/all/04448/facts.product_design_in_the_sustainable_era.htm