by Nicholas Buco

There seems to be an app for everything nowadays. Even with over 350,000 apps in the Apple App Store, it can be hard to find one that will actually add value to your life. Luckily, there's good news for anyone looking to reduce his or her carbon footprint. There has been a new wave of extremely useful energy apps that can do anything from track your daily energy consumption to find the most efficient light bulbs to buy for your home.

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Apps For Energy

In 2012, the US Department of Energy rolled out a contest, Apps for Energy, to give software developers the initiative to create energy apps for consumers to use. With $100,000 in total prizes, the contest received over 50 submissions, and some of them look very promising:

Smart Solar Energy

More and more households are adopting grid-connected solar panels to power their homes. To make this transfer of energy from solar panels to households more efficient, two graduate students from the University of Dayton have created an app called Innovative Solar Demand Response. This app gathers Green Button data to determine when a household's daily energy usage is highest, which is generally at night from 6pm until 11pm. Then the app utilizes a battery, which is charged by the solar panels during the day, to allocate the solar energy according to the household's peak usage. Excess power generated during the day by these grid-connected systems is normally fed back into the grid. Innovative Solar Demand Response helps consumers save money by keeping this excess power for when they need it most.

Free Stuff for Going Green

How do you feel about receiving incentives for lowering your energy consumption? Ikehu, a company based out of Hawaii, has developed an app they are calling DRIVE. This new application was created to lower the amount of energy used during peak times. How does it work? DRIVE will send you a request during these peak hours to reduce your power consumption for a disclosed amount of time. If you comply with the request, you are given free airline miles, or points, that can be redeemed at participating vendors. If you choose not to accept their offer, you will still receive points, just a lower quantity of them. This app won the "Peak Energy Usage Award" in the Apps for Energy contest. Although this service is still in the beta stages, you can expect to be hearing a lot more about it soon.

Implementing a Greener Lifestyle

Other apps are geared toward being used as a tool for a greener lifestyle. Light Bulb Finder, an app created by Eco Hatchery, does exactly what its name implies. The app acts as an online search engine to find you cheaper, more efficient light bulbs that are proven to lower your utility bill. This simple idea can springboard your home to becoming more efficient and to lowering your carbon footprint. It is also free! So it can't hurt to give it a try, if you are in the market for some new light bulbs. 

It is about time that we found a way to use our cell phones to reduce our carbon footprint. With hundreds of "green" applications to choose from, chances are you will find one that suits you. The implementation of one of more of these apps into your daily life can make a large difference. And it doesn't hurt that most of them are free!