You can use Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick to assess your home energy use compared to similar homes. You enter your ZIP code, the # of people in the home, the square footage and the amount of your energy bills. It will then show how your home fits on the 'yardstick' comparing your energy use to similar homes on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the best and 5 average. Since it uses the ZIP code and other specifics such as # of people and size of the home its a pretty good apples to apples look at how you're doing.
Our home came out a pretty pathetic score of 0.3 out of 10. Our results are shown below:
Our house is less than 30 years old and fairly well insulated. Its hard for me to believe our energy efficiency is that low. I did some trial and error and it looks like according to the yardstick data that we're spending about double the average for similar home in our area.
Some reasons why our energy usage may look worse than it is:
One detail that makes our score look lower is that we have a electric plan that uses only wind power. We pay a little more for that wind power plan but the prices are fixed for 5 years. We also have basically zero CO2 emissions since our power is 100% from clean wind power.
My wife works from home with her home based business so she is at home most of the day. That make our heat bills higher than average compared to a lot of people who are not at home during the day.
I wonder if they are comparing my home to all homes including those using natural gas or other forms of heat? Our house has an electric forced air furnace and an electric water heater. We'd have much lower energy costs if we had a gas furnace and water heater. So if they're comparing us to everyone then we might look pretty bad compared to the folks using gas.
Of course its possible that our house is really inefficient and it just needs some improvements to make it on par with our neighbors.
What to do to improve it?
Still even taking the above points into consideration I think we could still be higher than average for the home our size in our area. If you continue on the yardstick site after you get the results you can follow the "improve your results today" section and fill in the details on your Air conditioning, furnace and water heater and hit the "submit button". This will then give you a popup with some suggestions on how to lower your energy use.
The suggestions I got were:
- Seal air leaks
- Seal leaks in ductwork
- Add more insulation
- Consider installing an Energy Star qualified water heater
- Consider Energy Star windows when replacing
- Replace lights with Energy Star qualified lighting (including Compact fluorescent)
- Install a programmable thermostat
- Look for Energy Star Qualified products
We've already got CFL's and a programmable thermostat so that mostly takes care of #6 & #7. We're not due replace our windows and those can be pretty expensive so I don't think #5 is worth much consideration. #4 and #8 would take more investigation. But most of our appliance are relatively new and I don't think theres all that much savings to be had by buying new ones. I think I'll wait till its time to replace them then get Energy Star.
I mentioned previously that we have a plan to cut our home energy costs. The first step of that plan is to get a home energy audit provided by free from our local utility. Once we have the audit that should give us some specific detail on our home from an expert. We'll then look towards taking action on their recommendations. I bet that the #1,2 and 3 items in the suggested list from Energy Star will also be recommended after the audit.
The Energy Star Yardstick site will give you a ballpark estimation of how your homes energy efficiency stacks up. I doubt its perfect, but it is a good starting point. If your score is below average then you probably have some improvements to consider. As a further step I'd recommend a real home energy audit conducted by an expert like we're getting.