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: 195

Comment

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

Join Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy,) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.

Latest Activity

Bud Poll replied to Chad Mcaulife's discussion BPI QCI Cert.
"I can't think of any test I've ever taken where I wasn't able to determine what I…"
12 hours ago
jerry gentile replied to Chad Mcaulife's discussion BPI QCI Cert.
"you are spot on my friend-- during the exam I said this is ridiculous--- I have bpi certs for…"
17 hours ago
Eric Kjelshus commented on Jeremy Begley's blog post The Home Envelope : Does it Really Matter in a Heat Loss Caculation
"IT all matters,  I lot of sealing,  A lot of air barrier.  A lot of "R" A…"
yesterday
Michael Dunseith posted a status
"BPI Infiltration and Duct leakage (IDL) Certified"
yesterday
Jeremy Begley posted a blog post
yesterday
Kim Burnett joined Sean Lintow Sr's group
Thumbnail

Best Practices (Residential)

Best Building, Retrofitting, or even Auditing Practices - what are they, what should change, what…See More
yesterday
Kent Mitchell commented on Adam Swain's blog post Top Worst Crawl Space Insulation Ideas
"Hi Adam - It sounds like you may be referring to enclosed crawlspaces - Here in the NW we've…"
yesterday
peter chang replied to Damien Greenfield's discussion Is there is cost saving for you in having a tankless water heater?
"I think it is quite possible the greatest savings will be realized by the lowest volume users. I…"
yesterday

© 2014   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service