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How much to run your AC? Glendale will tell you minute-by-minute

Ceiva, a digital frame maker, plans to distribute 50 more of the photo frames in the next few months to Glendale Water & Power customers

Glendale Water & Power has a new way to get residents involved in the city's so-called smart meters: a digital frame that shows exactly how much it costs to run the air conditioning, the microwave oven and other appliances.

The new project is the brainchild of a Burbank businessman, Glendale Water & Power and Ceiva, a digital frame maker. It displays electricity and water usage on a small frame to get people to engage with the smart-grid technology the city has spent $20 million to install, the Glendale News-Press reported.

Jim Sepe, Ceiva's chief technology officer, is one of the guinea pigs. He can turn up the air conditioner, set the Jacuzzi at a lower temperature and run the microwave to watch numbers tick up and down on a digital photo frame he keeps on his kitchen counter.

"It's really fun," Sepe said. "I learned that if I did this or that, or turned my Jacuzzi down a few degrees, I was saving money."

Amid a slide show of Sepe's family photos, a screen shows up notifying him that he's spending 13 cents an hour on electricity and that he's used 640 gallons of water so far this month. When he flips on the air conditioner, the electricity cost shoots up to 94 cents an hour.

In March, Glendale was the first city in the nation to get federal stimulus money for installing smart-grid technology.  Smart meters allow customers to track their energy use online and change their behavior in order to save money, but it only works if people pay attention. 

"I think [the frame] is going to revolutionize smart grid because ... it's going to get customers really engaged," said Glenn Steiger, general manager of Glendale Water & Power. "That's the point -- people need to be engaged for it to work."

Since he has had the frame, Sepe said, it's caused him to think more about how much he waters his lawn and about bringing down his Jacuzzi temperature when he's not using it. 

Ceiva plans to distribute 50 more of the frames in the next few months to Glendale Water & Power customers as part of a pilot program. Steiger said the city is looking for volunteers to check out the frames, which will be provided for free.

Those interested in trying out the frames may contact Craig Kuennan at (818) 548-2107.

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-- Brittany Levine

Photo: Ceiva, a digital frame maker, plans to distribute 50 more of the photo frames in the next few months to Glendale Water & Power customers as part of a pilot program. Credit: Ceiva

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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