Every month since August, National Grid, the electric utility provider here in Upstate New York, sends out its Home Energy Report. This single sheet of paper compares your household energy consumption to that of your neighbors and categorizes it as either “Great,” “Good” or “More than average.” This may seem rewarding for those who are deemed more efficient than their neighbors but it can also seem annoying to those constantly labeled “energy hogs.”
What is the Home Energy Report program?
Tom Baron, Senior Program Manager at National Grid, describes the program as “combining behavioral science with data analytics to provide customers with clear, actionable information – such as comparisons with similar neighbors – that motivates them to lower their energy usage… and save on their monthly bills.”
By comparing a homeowner’s energy usage with neighbors living in similar sized dwellings with the same method of heating, National Grid hopes that the shock effect and competition to be more efficient than their peers might get homeowners thinking about how to reduce their energy waste. One recipient was told he used 129 percent more electricity than his efficient neighbors over the past 12 months, costing him about $700 extra per year!
Some people are skeptical of the program. Local Columbia County resident Deborah Moore claims in Albany’s Times Union that National Grid’s assessment of her energy usage as 28 percent higher than that of her efficient neighbors is skewed. Deborah says, “There are five [second homes] within easy shouting distance [of my home]. These houses are occupied one or two weekends a month. They are not my 'Efficient Neighbors,' they are my 'hardly ever in the house turning on a lamp, making microwave popcorn or opening the refrigerator' neighbors."
What you as a homeowner get out of the report
These comparison reports are popular with utilities around the world. More than 95 utility partners across the globe have sent similar reports to 50 million households and businesses, resulting in savings of over $1 billion on utility bills. National Grid says their intention is to spark your curiosity as a homeowner, not shame you. On the back of these reports, you'll find a list of “energy saving investments and smart purchases.” Quick fixes include unplugging electronics when they are not in use, smart purchases include investing in a programmable thermostat (for which National Grid offers a $25 rebate) and a great investment lies in getting a home energy assessment or energy audit.
Here is where BPI comes in handy! We certify the energy professional who assesses your home for energy saving opportunities, verifying through written and field practical exams that he/she has the knowledge, skills and abilities to diagnose your home correctly. We even certify professionals to assess, provide a work scope and do the recommended work! By choosing a BPI certified professional, you can rest assured that you are getting skill and quality and not just Bubba in a truck.
Another perk is that the energy audit can be discounted or free, depending on where you live and your level of income, and there are many rebates or loans to help homeowners pay for the upfront costs of energy upgrades. For example, Massachusetts offers rebates for homeowners, landlords and multifamily facilities and New York provides discounts and low cost loans for eligible residents. Search for rebates and other incentives in your state at www.dsireusa.org.
Moral of the story: The nationwide trend toward comparison Home Energy reports aims to help you save money and waste less energy. Will you respond to the challenge?