Understanding How to Interpret Your Energy Use

Reposted from i.e., the Center for Energy and Environment's Innovation Exchange blog -- http://mncee.org/Innovation-Exchange/ie/

 “Providing consumers with easy access to data on their energy consumption can help give them the tools they need to make informed decisions about their energy use. Developing applications and services to help consumers understand and control their energy use is a field ripe for American innovation.” -  US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu


Our residential energy efficiency program has provided Energy Snapshots to homeowners since 2008. Prior to each home visit, our program participants sign utility bill release forms, giving us access to the previous year’s natural gas and electric bills. Among other things, the Energy Snapshot shows the homeowner graphs of their monthly energy use compared to a calculated Minnesota average of like sized houses. 


To our “surprise”, not everyone intuitively understands these graphs nor do they delight in the insights so readily apparent on them. We have also learned that we need to train our home energy counselors on how to interpret the graphs and communicate them to the homeowner. With the increasing trend of customer feedback reports supplied by utilities as well as the greater accessibility to energy use data via smart thermostats, the smart grid and Green Button, now may be a good time to think about visual communication, visual literacy, and education.

Your average person may not have the graphical fluency to read a line chart. Expecting them to relate the chart to their actual energy use requires an additional leap of faith. Here are a few examples. What lessons can you draw from them? Leave your findings in the comments section below: 

Example 1:

Example 2:

Example 3:

Example 4:

Experience has taught us that homeowners need guidance to understand theses graphs, so our home energy counselors must be able to interpret the graphs and then explain their findings to the clients. We train our counselors with TWI techniques. Here’s the illustration we use to help our counselors understand the gas and electric energy use graphs:

Since electric and gas data are a direct manifestation of their energy use behaviors, these graphs’ content can provide a clarion call to energy saving actions. However, to make informed decisions, you need to know how to understand the information. According to a recent survey, only 24% of Americans consider themselves knowledgeable about energy. But four out of five are interested in learning how to use less energy, and 57% understand that energy savings will require behavior change and new technologies. How much do we need to educate our customers so that they can best interpret and use the information? More importantly, are we clear about our learning objectives for this? And then, what are the best ways to display this information to turn it into actionable knowledge? Lots of food for thought.

Contributing authors: Heather Hanson and Anna Jursik

Views: 272


You need to be a member of Home Energy Pros to add comments!

Join Home Energy Pros


  • Add Videos
  • View All


Latest Activity

Benny hani replied to Benny hani's discussion Manual J online
"Thanks Bob"
11 hours ago
Benny hani replied to Benny hani's discussion Manual J online
"Thank you Isaac"
11 hours ago
Bob Blanchette commented on Amber Vignieri's blog post Even with Polar Vortex, Hourly Pricing Participants Saved
"Looks like the days of paying a fixed amount per KWh are rapidly coming to an end. Many utilities…"
12 hours ago
Bob Blanchette replied to Benny hani's discussion Manual J online
"Be sure the size that you ACCURATELY calculate actually gets installed. Often…"
13 hours ago
Bob Blanchette replied to Sean Lintow Sr's discussion Water Saver or Gimmick? in the group Best Practices (Residential)
"The problem is these devices NEVER pay for themselves. Water is cheap, about $3 per 1,000 gallons…"
13 hours ago
Bud Poll replied to Rob Madden's discussion Blower Door Testing on Energy Star v3 home
"Where was the blower set up, front door, other?  Was if located in an unobstructed area, not a…"
David N. Armington liked John Poole's discussion Two Part Epoxy and Repair of Structural Wood
David N. Armington joined John Poole's group

Historic Home

Historic and vintage homes are significant to our cultural heritage, yet often lack energy…See More

© 2016   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service