Verde: Go Green and Save Money

I don’t exactly consider myself a green freak. Sure, I do my part: recycling when I can, buying CFLs to replace burned-out incandescent bulbs, and driving a subcompact, but I draw the line at washing and reusing a plastic sandwich bag (no offense to those who do).

When Earth Day sprung up on the calendar this past Sunday, though, I took a few moments to reflect on how I could be a little greener.

That’s when I found Verde, an iPad app geared not only at reducing your carbon footprint, but also at saving you money. And the latter is a green I’m pretty sure anyone can get behind.

So did Verde help assuage my inner naturalist? Read on to find out…


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Raw data has always been floating around, but until the creation of the Internet and the rise of budget-friendly “smart” electronics, only researchers wanted to collect it. Now we’re all scientists, scurrying about our busy lives logging the number of miles we’ve run and the amounts and types of food we eat on a daily basis. There are now more ways than ever to measure and quantify your life. That’s where Verde comes in; it’s an app geared toward quantifying your annual energy consumption and (hopefully) lessening it.

Verde is first and foremost an electricity calculator. You may have used a tool like this on the Web in the past. Identify your electric items, estimate the time you spend using them, and Verde will calculate just how much power you consume per year.

The good part about Verde is that it does some of the hard work for you. There’s no need to traipse around your house looking under or behind every appliance you own for a wattage rating that may not even be there, because Verde provides some baseline measurements for most electric appliances you own. The app gets pretty specific, differentiating between a 3-ton air conditioner purchased before 1985 with those manufactured between 1985 and 1992, 1992 and 2006, 2006 and 2011, and finally, those that are Energy Star-rated. All these options mean that you don’t even have to leave the couch to get a good estimate of your consumption rates.

Aside from the aforementioned A/C, there’s a section for your computer(s) and TV(s), appliances from the kitchen, lighting, and even electric vehicles. It really is quite a comprehensive list, and in my limited research, I found the estimates of Verde to be fairly close to their real-world applications. Occasionally you might have a model of appliance that is more energy efficient than Verde’s estimate, but in that case, you can customize the wattage rating on the spot.

Using the App

Verde’s interface is simple and straightforward. When you first open the app, you’ll be asked for your climate zone and the electricity rate from your electric bill. I did not have my bill handy, but Verde is capable of estimating your rate using the iOS location services option. I checked the rate Verde suggested against my bill later, and it was only half-a-cent off so it’s fairly accurate. After you’ve determined the price you pay for electricity, it’s time to create a list of power drains.

Verde's not bad at the guessing game.

To demonstrate, let’s pretend I need to add a toaster oven to my energy consumption list. First, I would select the category ‘Kitchen Appliances’, and then tap the green ‘plus’ sign in the upper right-hand corner. The pre-programmed listing of items is then revealed.

Scroll to ‘Toaster Oven – 1200 Watts’, and now tap the green ‘plus’ on the left to add it. Once the item is added, you can customize the wattage, hours used per day, and days used per year. When you’re ready to move on, just repeat the process.

For those wondering, you can use decimal numbers if there is an appliance you use less than 1 hour per day— e.g. 0.5 hours per day would be 30 minutes of usage. You can also add multiples of an item; light bulbs, for example, will need to be added to the list multiple times since you likely use some lights in your home more than others.

If you don’t find an item listed in Verde’s suggestions, you can use the ‘custom’ option to add a blank entry to your list and use the wattage rating on the item to complete the addition.

I found myself quite appreciative that Verde allowed both hours per day and days per year, because I honestly don’t use my toaster oven 365 days a year. As a matter of fact, the biggest challenge of using the app was trying to accurately gauge the number of days per year that I used a slow cooker or waffle iron.

Bear in mind that the app only measures kilowatt-hours (kWh), the same measure the electric company uses when billing you. While this is handy when calculating costs, the app does not factor in partial kilowatt-hours, whereas the electric company does.

This UI definitely beats a spreadsheet.

After you’ve added every electric item from your house, you can tap ‘Finalize Report’ for the results of your audit. Although the final report lists money-saving alternatives for all the items you included, it only calculates those savings in carbon (measured in ‘trees’ to really make you feel sad) for the top five energy offenders. In addition, the app recommends eco-friendly alternatives to the items you included on your report and links you to the Web where you can purchase them. Let me point out that it may not always be eco-friendly to get rid of your current electric item in order to replace it with another due to the environmental costs of manufacturing a new good. The recommendations Verde suggests should be considered when your current item breaks down and needs to be replaced.

Also, let me point out that Verde’s product recommendations do not generate advertising revenue; Jamie Johnson, from the Verde crew, assured me that the list is simply from an internal database of well-reviewed green products.

The final report lines out just how many trees you could be saving.

Constructive Criticism

So far, I’ve mostly been singing the praises of Verde, but it’s not all green pastures. You may have noticed that I’ve explicitly been referring to electric appliances. That’s because Verde doesn’t have selections for natural gas appliances, unleaded/diesel cars, or other fossil fuel sippers. I was a little disheartened by this revelation, as I believe any true energy audit should include these.

The good news is that the developer said there are tentative plans for measures of petroleum vehicles, natural gas, and even water usage, either as additions to Verde or as separate apps. Other than that quibble, the app did have a few random homescreen shutdowns or other oddities, but none were terribly inconveniencing, and it always saved my place.

Pricing and Conclusion

Verde is currently available free as a promotional discount for Earth Day. Its regular price is $4.99 so grab it while you can. According to the developer, the length of the promotion has yet to be determined, but you might as well grab it while it won’t lighten your pockets. If you miss out on the promotion, you may find yourself debating the purchase at five dollars; I did test out some other iPad energy calculators and Verde seemed to include the most options and friendliest UI. While the app is not perfect, it can provide you with some worthwhile information.

I think that Verde has a solid structure to build on, and I look forward to the improvements the developers plan to make in the future. If greening your life is something you value, Verde may just be the right app for your 10-watt iPad.


Summary

Verde is an electricity calculator for your home, geared at saving both carbon and cash.

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