Intelligent Energy

The link between your email address and energy bill

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Opower dug into its energy data and found a link between email address and household electricity use. It's Yahoo Mail versus Gmail users in this energy-comparison smackdown.

Energy software startup Opower dug into its cache of energy data and discovered that the average Yahoo Mail household uses 11 percent more electricity per year than a Gmail household.

Opower, which looked at the correlation between email address and electricity usage across 2.8 million American households, published the results this week in an inaugural post on the company's data trends blog Outlier. The email addresses correspond to the member of the household who manages the electricity bill and Opower focused on Yahoo and Gmail because they were the most popular domains in their dataset.

Yahoo households consume almost an extra month of electricity relative to Gmail households. Households that use more electricity, typically pay more as well. Based on an average going-rate of 11.8 cents per kilowatt hour, Yahoo email users pay $110 more a year for electricity than their Gmail counterparts.

Are Gmail and Yahoo users really that different? Other research appears to confirm that they are.

Hunch.com broke down its data last year said Yahoo users are most likely to be overweight women ages 18-49 who have a high school diploma and are spiritual, but not religious. They tend to live in the suburbs or rural areas, have children, not travel outside the country. While, Gmail users are most likely to be thin young men ages 18 to 34, who are college-educated and not religious. They tend to be politically liberal, single and childless -- all attributes that point to less electricity use, by the way.

Personal finance company Credit Karma founds Yahoo users have lower credits (652) than Gmail users (682).

Opower sifted deeper into the data to find out what was the correlation between email addresses and electricity use. The 1.15 million Gmail and Yahoo users in Opower's dataset are spread out across 23 states and several distinct climate zones, which suggests that geography didn't play a part in the results.

Yahoo users do appear to live in larger residences, which increases their total energy needs. But even controlling for home size, Opower found that Yahoo households are still more energy-intensive than Gmailers. The typical Yahoo Mail household uses 12 percent more electricity per square foot of living space than the typical Gmail household.

Illustration by stock.xchng user svilen001; Graphics from Opower

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure