There are two ways to achieve greater energy efficiency. Either you use new technology that does the same work with less power or you get people to use less. When it comes to showers, Tomas Stiefmeier thinks the latter is more effective.
“It’s really hard to improve technologies to increase energy efficiency. It’s much better to influence the behavior of people who use energy,” he says.
Stiefmeier’s company, Amphiro, has developed a device you insert between the end of a shower hose and the beginning of the head. It tells you in real-time how much water you’re using, what the temperature is, and how much energy has gone into heating the water (if kilowatt hours aren’t your thing, there are some helpful icons, like polar bears floating on sheets of ice).
The idea is that when people see what they’re using, they’re likely to shower a little less than normal. So far the theory seems correct. In a trial of 700 users in Switzerland, where Amphiro is based, people saved an average of 23% compared to their previous bill.
The meter powers itself. Inside is a mini turbine that turns with the water and runs the electronics. It will work as long as the shower is flowing, plus a few extra minutes on a stored charge.
Amphiro’s product isn’t completely new. The Zurich company released a first version a year ago and has sold about 20,000 units worldwide. But the second iteration–which is now on Kickstarter–has some updates. For example, the unit now links via Bluetooth to an app that records water usage and allows you to analyze your consumption.
In the next release, Stiefmeier also hopes to make the data social, so users can compare usage with a reference group, like the neighbors on their street. Peer group comparison–pioneered by companies like Opower–has been shown to be effective because people generally don’t want to use more power than their peers.