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Energy efficiency: How the Internet can lower your electric bill

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Enery efficiencyGary Raymond had had enough of the lights in Warehouse No. 5. The old metal-halide fixtures cast a sour yellow hue on the stacks of cardboard boxes inside the storage facility. They hummed incessantly and burned out well before their due.

So Mr. Raymond, the landlord, replaced them with a brighter, smarter Web-enabled lighting system. He hoped it would help attract and retain tenants in the increasingly competitive warehouse market on Chicago's Southwest Side. But when the next utility bill arrived, something looked very wrong.

The bill appeared to show only partial electricity use, and the bottom line was a tenth of what it normally was. The tenant thought the new lights might be broken, but as far as Raymond knew, they worked just fine.

The local utility couldn't believe it either. Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) dispatched an engineer to double-check that the meter was operating properly, Raymond recalls, and later hired a consultant to monitor the lights.

Everything checked out. The meter worked. The lights shone. The partial electricity use wasn't a result of the "intelligent" lighting system working improperly. It was a result of it working exactly as designed – and better.

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