Glendale residents will get high tech reminders to conserve water and electricity

Digital photo frames given out by Glendale Water and Power will alternate homeowners' personal photos with real time information on electricity and water consumption. CEIVA / Glendale Water and Power

In the face of California’s record drought, Glendale Water and Power is counting on technology to help make homeowners more aware of the electricity and water they use.

The utility company, in cooperation with CEIVA Energy, is expanding a pilot program that provides digital photo frames to homeowners. The photo frames, which connect wirelessly to digital meters, will alternate between uploaded personal photos and realtime information on household water and electricity usage.

Officials at GWP said that a previous trial of 72 photo frames showed residents gained a better understanding of their energy usage. 

“People start to see their usage and over time have reduced their energy consumption by five percent or more,” said Steve Lins, chief assistant general manager for GWP.

Last week, the Glendale City Council approved a motion to spend up to $260,000 to expand the pilot program to 500 homes. In addition to the photo frames, which normally cost $65, participants will also receive programmable digital thermostats that can be controlled remotely using a mobile device. The thermostats cost $175 , but participants in the pilot program will receive them for free, too.

Lins said about 200 customers have already signed up to participate.

The pilot program will also give participants the option to sign up for a demand response program, which would allow the utility to remotely change temperatures in their homes during peak demand times. 

“[GWP] might send a signal to say, ‘Cool to 70 degrees instead of cool to 68 degrees,’ which would turn the air conditioning off for a small portion of the time or reduce the load a little bit," Lins said. "When you aggregate all these people together, it has a significant impact on the system.” 

Lins said participants would receive a lower rate for their utilities in exchange for participating in the demand response program - but details of how it would work are still being ironed out. 

"We hope that it's successful," he said, "and we would like to expand it to all the customers in the city of Glendale."