In reviewing the content of Home Energy's January/February issue, I was struck by how rapidly the energy-saving business is changing. In the issue, we cover the come-from-nowhere explosion in LEDs. Another article about energy-efficient homes in Germany describes the rapid shift to near zero energy homes. That article also reminds us why it is getting risky to ignore activities on what used to be the utility side of the meter. German utilities have recently changed electricity tariffs and have suddenly made it more attractive for homes with PV to consume all electricity generated on-site, rather than feed it into the grid. Enter the battery and other forms of energy storage.

Even the technologies to solve age-old problems are changing. Buildings still have cracks and leaks, but fixing them is time consuming, expensive, and not always successful. An article on aeroseal duct sealing hits all three of those targets. We need to learn to air seal more buildings faster if we want to do the job economically. And yes, the world still needs weather strip, so Home Energy is pleased to publish a product view of the venerable V-strip.

Home Energy’s readership is changing, too. Our older readers are retiring and being replaced by younger specialists who turn to the web for all kinds of information. That’s why we’re rebalancing our magazine and web content, pushing more of the smaller articles onto the web. That shift allows us to publish longer articles in the paper magazine, where you can read them in comfort. We’ll also publish more-timely articles on the web—articles that might become stale if we waited two months to publish them in our next issue. We will, of course, tell readers of each format what we are offering in the other format.

What further changes can we expect for 2015 and beyond? Will there be any more explosive changes like the one we saw with LEDs? Here’s what I predict. First, I expect we will see many more networked products communicating with each other and with the Internet. The first of these networks will consist of only a few products, where the presence of a network makes possible a new feature or a new service. Second, we will see less distinction between electricity providers and consumers. The utility meter once marked a clear boundary, where electricity flowed in only one direction, from the utility to the customer. In a few places already, the meter behaves more like a broker in a marketplace, deciding in which direction the energy will flow. And third, we will be worrying a lot more about water. Average residential water and sewage bills have already overtaken natural-gas bills, and I can’t imagine that costs will plateau soon.

One thing won’t change. You will read about all of these topics in Home Energy—regardless of the format—and see how all of these changes play out.

- Alan Meier is senior executive editor of Home Energy.

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Comment by Bob Blanchette on January 10, 2015 at 6:30am

The big problem is that utility companies are increasing the fixed monthly service charges faster than the cost of energy. It creates a "regressive incentive" for saving energy. If the DOE really wanted to get people to conserve they would limit the fixed monthly fees and allow the utility companies to charge higher rates for the energy itself instead. Look at your utility bills, how much of the bill is consumption based vs. fixed monthly cost? Fixed monthly charges account for a large portion of the total bill in high efficiency homes.

I laugh at our city when they tell everybody to "save water" and charge $50/mo before you turn on a facet. The actual cost of water is only $5 for 1,000 gallons. Charge more for the water and less in monthly service fees if you want people to get serious about conserving.

Comment by Barbara Smith on January 8, 2015 at 7:32am

Good stuff

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