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Hohm Shows Promise

To answer the cliffhanger question from my last post, using Hohm – Microsoft’s new site that helps you figure out how to cut your energy use – turned out to be a friendly, pleasant experience.

Collecting the info Hohm needs to compose a snapshot of your energy use may not be, though. You’ll be searching high and low, as the Hohm form goes deep into your energy-use habits and home layout, from how many CFLs you have to the variety/thickness of your insulation (the question that gave me the most trouble) to the type of glass in your windows to where your ducts are. So you better have all your ducts in a row if you want to do this thing right. HA!

But what’s nice about it is the form saves your info automatically wherever you are, freeing you up to go hunt down the answers to questions like, “Is there radon in my windows?” or “Is my insulation R-11 or R-13?” So you can collect info over any number of days or weeks or months, and it will give you an exponentially more-accurate overview as you add data.

And if you have an older house, it’s pretty cool to dig up info that you’ve always sort of wondered about but might’ve not known or hadn’t thought about in a long time, like construction date (1920 here – doesn’t bode well for insulation, I’m afraid) or precise square footage.

So, how accurate is it?

In the four days I spent gathering info, I was able to fill out 94% of the Home Profile, enough for Hohm to be able to return a pretty close to real-world scenario, if it does what it’s supposed to. And it appears that it does, telling me I spend $3,912 annually on energy costs. Because my wife is a meticulous record-keeper, I know we spent $3,634 last year on gas and electric. That puts Hohm’s estimate within a respectable 9% of actual. Not bad, especially considering it was working with 6% less data than it wanted.

And Hohm breaks that down, telling you how much you spend in each of six energy categories, like lighting, heating and appliances.

The handiest – and, in my case, most depressing – info on the easy-to-read layout results page (they call it ‘My Hohm Center’) is the Average Annual Energy Costs In Your Area scale. It shows you how your costs compare to others near you (how near, I’m not sure; couldn’t find a definition of “area”).

Hohm then delivers its detailed Energy Report, pointing out the best changes you can make to save energy and money.

For really accurate reports, Hohm allows you to connect to your energy provider to view your home’s actual energy-use data. But that feature wasn’t enabled for my area.

The site also features a collection of statistics on saving money, such as how lowering a water heater’s setting saves $49 a year, and a section on rebates and tax credits for making efficiency improvements.

There were a couple failings. Hohm offers no choices other than CFLs or traditional bulbs when asking what kind of lighting you have. My house has a bunch of old-school fluorescents, so that must’ve thrown off my results a bit.

And there’s a Hohm community, featuring a blog and a forum. But the forum is through a third party, so if you want to contribute you have sign up with them. Or you can sign in through your Windows Live account (which I never wanted to begin with but you have to register to use Hohm), but to do so, it takes you away from the Hohm forum to a new page, where you sign in, which takes you to a second page, where you have to input more info. Sound confusing? Good, because that conveys how it feels. I don’t want to have to jump through hoops just to comment that the Home Profile should have more lighting options.

And it would’ve been nice to have been able to actually connect to my energy providers. It’s like a big tease. They say they’re working to add more though, with recent agreements with Puget Sound Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light and Xcel Energy.

Overall using Hohm taught me a lot about my house and my family’s energy habits. It’s a useful tool for anybody who wants to get a little more familiar with their footprint

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“Hohm Shows Promise”

  1. Blogger Elliott Lemenager MBA/MSL Says:

    If you have any additional questions or suggestions let me know.