The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) recently named Light Bulb Finder  (shown) from Milwaukee-based EcoHatchery  the overall winner of the Apps for the Environment Challenge . Judges chose Light Bulb Finder, which helps users find more energy efficient light bulbs for existing fixtures, from a field of almost 40 smart phone applications based on usefulness, innovativeness and usability.
Adam Borut, one of EcoHatchery’s co-founders, says he discovered from talking to consumers that there’s a lot of interest in saving money by switching to energy efficient lighting, but there’s also a lot of confusion.
“Light bulbs haven’t changed in a long time, so it was always a low-involvement decision, but now there's a plethora of options out there,” Borut says. “Then we realized that mobile phones are the perfect platform for doing your own home lighting audit. You can walk around with your phone in your hand, stand in front of a fixture, put in the information and see different bulb options and the environmental impact of each and make an educated decision.”
This information comes from a database of light bulb options that EcoHatchery is constantly updating, which allows the app to make bulb recommendations based on fixture type, bulb type and bulb wattage. The app also calculates how much the user will save with the new bulb compared to an incandescent, both annually and over the bulb’s lifetime.
“The nice thing with this app is you don’t have to keep up with the latest news on light bulbs,” Borut says. “You just have to go to the app and you’ll find out what the latest technology is.”
The app also allows users to create a bulb shopping list that they can e-mail to themselves, along with a room-by-room replacement guide. Users can also go one step further and simply buy bulbs through the app.
“Lighting is the easiest, fastest payback option for households to save money, so it’s really the gateway to energy efficiency for a lot of people,” Borut says. “It helps people realize that energy efficiency is not the same as going organic – you get immediate savings.”
For users who are interested in going further, the app also provides information about other energy efficiency opportunities based on their ZIP code, such as local appliance rebates or discounts on whole home energy audits.
The Light Bulb Finder app was first launched in late 2010 for Android and iPhone platforms, and has undergone several upgrades since then. Borut says the app has had a fantastic response, with over 100,000 downloads to date. In addition, EcoHatchery keeps track of how much money the app has saved people based on data from users who opt in for data aggregation.
“We added up all the savings of people who have opted in, and users of the app have now saved $500,000 a year, and $2.2 million over the lifetime of the bulbs, as of the end of October,” Borut says. “That for us is a thrilling number to watch because we get to see our real impact.”