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July 7, 2009

Hohm: Microsoft’s Home Energy Usage Site

Category: Cool Sites,Household – Tom Harrison – 9:34 am

I just spent an hour (while on my vacation) entering home energy data for my house into Microsoft Hohm Energy Usage site. I provided a great deal of home data — items like square footage of windows, BTU/hr for my furnace, R-values of insulation in my house. After finishing this part, I was told that my energy providers are not yet Hohm partners, so unless I enter my energy use data manually, I get pretty much nothing other than a breakdown of energy use in a pie chart (which, since I have done this myself, I know is inaccurate).

In the end, they provide a list of recommendations — many were ones I had already done (and said so in the survey) such as using a programmable thermostat. Come on — that’s lame.

It is true that Hohm is not the same thing (in any way) as Google Power Meter. In fact, this same kind of energy survey is available from my gas provider, WattzOn.com, and several other sites such as Global Footprint Network which is the measurement tool used on the TV show Wa$ted.

A larger complaint of this and most other calculators is that they request detailed information that most people could not provide (I guess I am one of few people who knows my furnace’s BTU/hr rating off the top of my head, or even where to find it). Garbage in, garbage out. And in the case of Hohm, the survey is limited to home energy usage — no travel, no recycling, no food, commutation, etc. Sigh.

It’s hard to complain too much about this — it’s a Beta site, so my expectations should probably be low — I suspect it will get better, more widely accessible and so on. But for me, it was an hour of questionable data input leading to no useful recommendations or other insights (and I think this would be true of most people, not just a person diagnosed with energy-consumptive-obsessive disorder.

3 Comments

  1. Seattle City Light downloaded its data to MS Hohm last Spring and it was supposed to go live in June, but the site is STILL not working! Not the utility’s fault, but MS. I’m sorry to hear it took you so long to plug in your data, and then when you did, you received generic/innacurate recommendations. I hope I’ll get better results with utility data. I’ll write back when the site gets fixed.

    Comment by Anne Ducey — August 19, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Hi Anne —

    Thanks for the update. I don’t mean to discount the value of Holm, only that it seems kind of a thin response to a larger problem. I (used to be?) am a fan of Microsoft, and think companies like this can be part of a big solution — the kind that often eludes the byzantine workings of our government. I am hopeful that MS gets its act together and turns this warmed over version of software that has been available in other forms for year (albeit without any integration or network benefits).

    Tom

    Comment by Tom Harrison — August 19, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  3. Yea, I tried Hohm as well and really just wasnt that impressed. It’s like they just slapped some GUI on some DOE data and off they went. I’m sure it will improve but for those of us who already have a good idea about energy it wasnt that useful and very labor intensive to get the data in.

    Comment by Chris Kaiser — September 15, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

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