A Greener Hohm

hohm_graphLast July, Microsoft released new energy analysis software, Microsoft Hohm, which allows its users to conduct an energy audit of their home. The free program explores energy usage in areas such as lighting, appliances, heating, and cooling. To use the program, users must register for an account and answer a series of questions. Upon completion, Microsoft Hohm generates an individualized and comprehensive report detailing suggestions to save both energy and money.

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In order to generate a report, Hohm requires registered users to fill out both basic and advanced home profiles. The basic profile consists of essential questions such as the type of home (multi-family, apartment, etc.), year built, and square footage. It is straightforward and takes only a few minutes to complete.

The advanced profile is detail oriented and more time consuming than the basic profile, but it covers nearly all aspects of home energy consumption. It is broken down into eight sections: Home Information, Structure, Doors & Windows, Heating & Cooling, Water Heating, Appliances, Pumps & Pools, and Lighting. Each section contains between three and sixty questions, depending on the responses given. In my experience, to make the process run smoothly, users should first review the questions in each section, seek out the necessary information, and then answer the questions. Hohm tracks user progress in each section by monitoring the percent completed, which is displayed via a status bar as users near 100% completion.

After both the basic and advanced profiles are completed, Microsoft Hohm will generate a customized Hohm Energy Report. The report provides a summary of potential savings, energy cost breakdown and usage, energy saving recommendations, and detailed instructions on how to implement the recommendations. It also compares the do-it-yourself cost and the professional cost for implementing such changes, amount of time required, carbon savings per year, and financial savings per year, demonstrating on a grand scale the effects of implementing Microsoft’s suggestions. In addition to the custom recommendations outlined by Microsoft Hohm, the program also provides users with a library to view all of Hohm’s energy saving suggestions; these suggestions are equivalent to Leonardo Academy’s Home Energy Saving Checklists.

Another facet of the Hohm Energy Report is the option to connect with an electric or natural gas provider to track past usage and future progress. Currently, only a few service providers have partnered with the Hohm program—nearly twice the amount have partnered with Google’s version of the program, Google PowerMeter. However, as the Microsoft Hohm program gains popularity, the amount of providers will likely increase. If the appropriate service provider is unlisted, users can manually enter their data into the system to monitor progress and encourage their service providers to partner with Microsoft Hohm.

The Community Forum is the final feature of Microsoft Hohm. This section works to keep users updated with Microsoft Hohm improvements through their blog and shares archival access to press releases, fact sheets, and utility partner press releases. It also includes links to social media networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, as well as instructional videos, forums, and support

Overall, Microsoft Hohm is a very effective resource for consumers interested in saving money and energy. While the questions are lengthy, the customized report provides the best ways for each individual user to save money, recognizing the multitude of differences between homes and home owners.  As a renter with little structural knowledge and house history, the program proved to be a challenge; however, for those who are committed to saving energy and money, it is a challenge well worth overcoming.

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