A popular digital picture frame used by a test group of Glendale Water & Power customers has significantly increased consumers' awareness of how much electricity and water they use, according to a survey released by the utility on Thursday. 

The frame, which shows energy and water usage in near real-time, can also include a rotating selection of personal pictures and advertisements from the city.

According to the survey, which gathered input from roughly 70 users before and after the frame was installed, found 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

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

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

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

“It allows them to really manage their usage,” said Glendale Water & Power General Manager Steve Zurn, adding that the digital frame is a tangible way for customers to see the impacts of the utility's modernization efforts.

The utility has been spending $70 million — $21 million of which came from federal and state grants — to revamp the way water and electricity usage is measured. 

The utility has replaced analog meters with digital ones known as smart meters — much to the chagrin of critics who complain that the devices have made them sick due to so-called “electro sensitivity” — and has undergone several other infrastructure changes.

The cost of the picture frame pilot program, which includes about 70 customers and has been in place since 2011, was $5,700 because of a discounted cost from the frame's producer, Burbank-based Ceiva Energy. 

Utility officials are considering expanding the pilot program to 200 people to capture those on a waiting list for the free frames, a project that could cost $80,000, or $400 per frame, Zurn said. The expanded program would not include the original Ceiva discount, hence the increased cost per frame. 

If the pilot expansion continues to be successful, the utility may consider selling the frames to customers, Zurn said, adding that the City Council would have to greenlight any new efforts.

Ceiva paid for the 15-minute online survey, which was conducted by a consultant firm.

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