Get Your Ritual On LED Style + Bits about Smartmeters

I love organizing stuff. From books & spices to clothes & data. My mother would say that I’ve fully embraced my virgo rising. So when SCE replaced my old analog electric meter with a new SmartConnect™ Meter, I discovered that I can check my usage month-by-month and hour-by-hour on a plotted graph. I was in heaven! I could determine every morning when we woke up, and every night when went go to bed – all neatly plotted on the graph in terms of energy usage.

Sitting in the dead heat of late southern california summer, air conditioner blasting for weeks, I was shocked to learn that I use more electricity in December than in the hottest summer months (September is a summer month heat-wise in So Cal).

SCE Monthly Trend

Monthly trend for my Edison Meter. The red line describes the height of usage in December, followed by September’s second highest usage in orange, and lastly, the green line describes the lowest usage point in March.

Why is it higher in December? For one, Standard Time is back in effect (my lowest electricity usage of course is when daylight savings kicks back in March) and two, Holiday lighting is abundant.

During the hot summer months the power companies issue “Flex” alerts – a way to urge consumers to turn off/down the A/C, and to not use major appliances like dishwashers, laundry, etc until evening. You know, “do your part as a citizen to ward off a power crisis.” Its’s splashed all over the Network News, and there’s even an incentive program in which the power company will pay me $10 bucks just to sign up for and observe these alerts!

When there is a power crisis, it happens in the form of Rolling Brown Outs and MAJORLY impacts the life of the average US Citizen, much more so if you’re like yours truly, who relies on a stable power grid for work & play. Countries without advanced, reliable power infrastructures, get these all the time, leading to only a few hours of available power per day, but I digress…

Here is where my inner-organizer becomes oh-so-curious. If my house is a microcosm of the power grid, why aren’t there flex alerts splashed all over the news during December? Flex alerts should be issued when they’re needed, whenever they’re needed … right?

I searched all over the interwebs and found one article entitled GRINCH PULLS THE PLUG : HOLIDAY LIGHTS SAP EDISON’S POWER RESERVE. Not a flex alert, but an article describing how Edison pleads, on the down-low, with corporations, and civic customers to turn lights off. What this article’s title points to is very important: Someone is trying to mess with the Holidays.

On the surface, there are the economics to consider. The holiday shopping season is a time where retailers pull themselves out of the red and into the black and is a huge indicator of consumer confidence. This keeps wall street chugging along, and therefore people keep their jobs so that they can go shopping all over again. Turning off all those holiday displays would send the economy crashing. Who cares how many lights and decorations it takes to draw shoppers, as long as we don’t suffer the no doubt nuclear impact on consumer confidence if retailers, cities, and homes didn’t light up the night for Santa Clause.

A holiday-time flex alert is not just a threat to straight consumerism, it threatens a deep cultural & religious ritual. The cultural ritual dictates that it is as important for consumers to decorate their homes in true Griswaldian, power-sucking glory, as it is for a Church to display the Nativity Scene. Entire neighborhoods pride themselves on their showy displays. Even Network News celebrates the grandeur, and gives more than just a few very dedicated individuals their 15 minutes of fame.

Furthermore, the voracity with which people shop is entirely ritualistic. Hordes of shoppers make their yearly pilgrimage to the malls, gathering souvenirs and even fighting over the most desirable ones. Rubik’s Cubes, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Furbies, and Xbox 360s have all been the “Holy Grails” of holiday shopping.

The holiday season is a very powerful one, tying together ritual, culture, and economics. The collective spirit forbids any tramping on this parade, which is what a Grinch does. Therefor, a  Grinch-like mention of a Flex Alert during the Holidays would create a woeful backlash against the power company. This doesn’t mean I don’t care how much my electricity bill is, so this coming year, I’m going all LED with my ritual!

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