Microsoft has announced a new feature of Hohm, it’s home energy management solution launched nearly a year ago. Users can now compare their own energy efficiency with that of others.
Hohm has estimated the energy efficiency for nearly 60 million homes in the US. This ‘Hohm Score’ is on a scale from one up to 100 and is calculated for every home in the company’s database. Each score is unique in comparing a specific home's estimated and potential energy efficiency based on a combination of Hohm’s own algorithms with public record information and analytics licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy.
By entering an address it’s possible to get an estimate of how much that home could be saving annually on energy, a comparison chart that shows how its energy use measures up to other homes in the area and an energy-cost breakdown. The data can be compared locally, state-wide and nationally, or with another specific address. The assessment can be fine-tuned by entering some basic information such as the type of appliances and systems used and actual energy usage from utility bills (which can be kept private).
The Hohm Score gives an added dimension to home energy management by comparing the assessment with other homes and hopeful creating an added incentive for people to reduce energy use. The Hohm blog says that if all 60 million homes in the database improved ten points in their score, it would save $16bn in energy costs annually in the US, or about $250 a year per home.
The importance of energy information displays (EIDS) and other energy management technology in smart grid initiatives has been highlighted in a recent report from Pike Research. With a range of technology vendors in the home energy management (HEM) market, from small device start-ups to the likes of Microsoft and Google (Powermeter), and governments and utilities around the world investing heavily into smart grid and smart meter deployments, sales of HEM systems are expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. Pike Research says that global market for EIDs will reach five million in-home devices by 2015, mostly in the US and Europe.
One point that the executive summary of the report makes is that whilst the free Microsoft and Google web-based dashboards are a means for utilities to get some feedback on attitudes and behaviours towards home energy management, they come at a cost. Utilities have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and many months developing feeds of customer usage information for Microsoft Hohm and Google PowerMeter. They need to be sure they are getting the right return, in terms of information and assessment, on which to base future consumer programmes.