Glendale Water & Power is expanding its program to help customers better monitor and control their electrical and water use with a new energy-saving tool — a thermostat that can be controlled from a smartphone.

In the first phase of the project launched in 2011, 72 customers received digital picture frames that not only displayed personal photos, but also information about water and electrical use in the household and conservation tips.

Now, 500 customers can sign up for an expanded pilot project that includes not only the picture frame, but also a smart thermometer that can be controlled remotely.

For example, using their smartphone, customers can turn on their air conditioning a few minutes before they arrive home. Or, they can turn off their air conditioning or heater using their smartphone if they forget to do it before they leave.

The goal of the program is give customers another way to conserve energy, said Steve Lins, chief assistant general manager of Glendale Water & Power.

“We eventually want to expand the program citywide to help all customers,” Lins said.

He added that it’s unclear whether customers would have to purchase the equipment if the program covers the entire city. It will depend on how successful the conservation will be in the expanded project, he added.

The expanded program was approved by the Glendale City Council Tuesday night and the cost is not to exceed $260,000 over the next 12 months. Each thermostat will cost $175 and each frame will cost $65, according to a city report.

A few months ago, the utility released results of a survey of 70 of the customers who have the picture frames and it showed the device significantly increased their awareness of how much electricity and water they use.

Lins said the frames connect with customers because 40 of their personal photos rotate on display every day and sprinkled in are real-time usage information and conservation tips.

“It really captures your attention,” he said.

The survey, paid for by the utility’s partner in the project, CEIVA Logic Inc., showed that 39% of respondents said they “absolutely know” how much electricity is used in their home each day after using the frame, compared to 4% prior to installation.

Also, 22% of respondents said they “absolutely know” how much running air conditioning increases their energy costs, compared to 7% prior to installation, according to the survey.

The survey showed that 20% of respondents said they “absolutely know” how much water is used in their home each day, compared to 5% prior to installation.

And 83% of respondents experimented in some way, such as turning their lights or appliances on or off, to observe changes in utility costs displayed on the frame.

Selection to participate in the expanded program is on a first-come, first-served basis, according to utility officials.

For more information, contact Varsenik Avetisian at vavetisian@ci.glendale.ca.us or call 818-548-4828.

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Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.

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