Thursday, April 2, 2009

Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick

There are a LOT of Internet-based, do-it-yourself tools for calculating home energy use. The grand-daddy of these sites is The U.S. Environmental Agency's Energy Star platform.

The "Home Energy Yardstick" is typical of free, online resources. This tool allows you to compare your home's energy consumption to national averages. So, since I already maintain a spreadsheet with my historical utility bill data, it was a fairly simple task to enter a handful of numbers like the house's square footage, zip code, annual consumption and expenditure figures for gas and electricity, and so on.

With the press of the "enter" button, my results emerge: a humbling 5.9 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is "most efficient." The screen also provides a list of prescribed improvements, with links to explanatory pages elsewhere in the Energy Star archive.

Note that national averages are based on other homeowners' self-reported data, which may or may not be correctly entered. However wobbly the data, it's better than nothing. By investigating this alternative route, I find the same leading recommendation: seal the air leaks and improve insulation. The only way to improve this tool is to provide an estimation of dollar savings-- but that result is obviously dependent on the specific improvements that the homeowner elects to make. To be fair, the model can't measure what has yet to be done.

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