WattBuy is launching a free online calculator that lets homeowners, renters, real estate companies and solar developers get month-to-month electricity cost and carbon footprint estimates for any residential address in the U.S.
“Consumers can use these insights to choose cheaper, greener electricity options and make individual decisions around solar rooftops or other energy efficiency improvements that can have a positive impact on reducing a home’s carbon impact,” said Naman Trivedi, co-founder and CEO of WattBuy, a startup that aims to ensure that all households have access to cheaper, cleaner electricity.
Solar developers usually have tools for calculating a home’s electricity costs and carbon footprints, but often to arrive at an estimate, a customer needs to input months of utility bills. To use WattBuy’s calculator, all a person needs to do is plug in a residential address in the U.S
For solar developers, the calculators could also be helpful when reaching out to homeowners or when assessing solar opportunities in new markets. According to Ben Hood, WattBuy’s chief technology officer, the calculator can help solar developers make a more compelling argument for solar because they can use it to show customers their potential electricity cost savings and their carbon footprint reductions. Solar developers in the Northeast and Midwest have expressed interest in using the calculator in this way, he said.
On the real estate side, the ultimate goal is to embed the calculator into property listing platforms. Real estate companies often provide buyers with annual utility bill estimates, and they often assist renters when they are setting up their utility service.
“For the first time, anyone can access this information to understand how much they’d potentially pay for electricity for that new home they’re considering purchasing or how much CO₂ the home produces,” Trivedi said. The calculator will also help people make comparisons quickly, so that they can see how various properties line up in terms of their month-to-month electricity costs and their carbon footprints, he said.
WattBuy’s calculator uses as inputs Zillow’s ground-level U.S. housing market data, Dark Sky’s minute-by-minute weather data, National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s TMY3 datasets, which show hourly values of solar radiation and meteorological elements for a one-year period, and data from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s building performance database. This data is then combined with national utility rate data in a machine learning model that returns an hourly electricity usage prediction.
“With this electricity usage prediction, we can then calculate a home’s carbon footprint using standard CO₂ byproduct values for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced based on the fuel sources for that state,” Hood explained.
According to WattBuy, its calculator’s accuracy, which is within 10% of the natural variation in electricity usage that occurs within most homes, will become more precise over time as new data is incorporated into the machine learning model.
In the coming months, WattBuy plans to make its calculator interactive so that consumers can see the impact that solar panels, Powerwalls, smart meters and electric vehicles have on their monthly electricity bill and their carbon footprint.
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