Image via Hohm
Microsoft has been working away at improving their Hohm platform - the energy management website they built for people interested in monitoring and minimizing their energy use. One of the features that most companies focusing on dashboards for energy management are determined to include is allowing a user to compare their consumption to that of similar households. It sparks that competitive spirit and boosts how often people sign on to check their energy consumption. Microsoft has added this feature to Hohm, and now you can compare your energy use to that of 60 million other US homes. Called Hohm Scores, the new feature ranks houses by calculating public record information about the home's size, age and location. Adding in additional data about typical weather patterns, average utility bills and other factors. All combined, they generate a score between 1-100, with 100 being perfect energy efficiency.
Hohm states that this feature represents the first time a consumer has access to national information about how other households are performing in energy use.
It's important to note that small details make huge changes in comparisons and you can quickly go from apples-to-apples to apples-to-pears-to-pomegranates. A three-bedroom, 1300 square-foot home in Phoenix, Arizona is going to have a radically different energy consumption profile than an identical house placed in San Jose, California, or Buffalo, New York. Factors like environment, square footage, landscape features (like big trees nearby), the number of people living in the home, and design features like passive solar heating and cooling, insulation, window types and so on will dramatically alter comparisons.
However, if you know you're comparing houses very similar to yours, then you can see how you rank on using energy efficiently.
Hohm also allows you to create your energy profile by entering information about how your home is constructed and your habits. The information is added in to the database to further fine-tune the scoring system. Plus, you're able to generate tips specific to your situation for trimming energy use.
Unfortunately, the system still doesn't function for apartment dwellers, but is useful for home owners.
For now, Hohm is still a very basic tool - it doesn't yet incorporate your utility bills (though if you are with particular utility companies, you can link your bills to the platform for automatic updates on your energy use scores) nor does it yet link up to smart meters. However, Hohm is working on beefing up its features even more in the coming months, and will soon provide information about the impact across the US if all households perform one of the tips, such as switching to CFLs or turning their thermostats down.