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Summary:

Are you ready to give Microsoft’s energy management tool Hohm a spin? On Monday morning at 6 a.m. (pacific time) Microsoft is opening up the doors on Hohm to the general public, about two weeks after the software giant revealed the idea behind its energy management […]

HohmenergyusageAre you ready to give Microsoft’s energy management tool Hohm a spin? On Monday morning at 6 a.m. (pacific time) Microsoft is opening up the doors on Hohm to the general public, about two weeks after the software giant revealed the idea behind its energy management tool. Hohm, which will enable home owners to track their energy consumption and potentially modify their energy behavior in a variety of ways, is in beta mode, and Microsoft told us it will be tweaking the software — making it smarter — according to user feedback. So here’s your first chance to give it a whirl and tell ‘em what you really think.

We checked out the tool this weekend pre-launch, and here are my first impressions. Hohm can use as little information as a ZIP code to start predicting your energy consumption, and then the more questions (up to 180) you answer about your residence (like the numbers of doors and windows and type of water heating technology), the more accurate the tool can be. Down the road, the goal is to have the tool link with your utility, integrating your real historical energy data, and then ultimately work with smart meters and other smart devices to provide closer to real-time energy data consumption data.

Using just my ZIP code, those prediction algorithms, licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy, are not so bad — Hohm predicted around $750 in annual heating costs per year, and $2,000 in total energy costs, which sounds a little high, but close to the annual bill of my house. And when I answered more questions (about 30 percent of my profile), the energy consumption dropped a bit, i.e., got smarter.

But looking at just the predicted annual energy consumption data doesn’t really offer me all that much. It’s just a set of numbers that doesn’t feel all that actionable. So before the tool will be able to automatically hook up with my utility and integrate my monthly historical energy data, it feels like so many of the carbon calculators and energy tools online already. Microsoft knows those limitations and is looking to sign up more utilities (PG&E, that means you!) But until Hohm finds more utility partners beyond Xcel Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light, and Puget Sound Energy, most energy users are stuck with the basic Hohm version.

In addition, the tool is really the best-suited for conscientious home owners. Not so much for, say, an apartment renter. Many of Hohm’s questions are really difficult to know if you’re renting an apartment, like when was the heating system installed; is your water heater insulated; or what is the capacity of your water heater? I only had 30 percent of my profile filled in because, quite frankly, I could only answer a certain number of the questions.

But even though I missed out on the utility experience, there were some features of the basic Hohm that I did appreciate. I really liked the three-tiered setup of the recommendations section, which broke down projects that can reduce energy consumption in terms of: “DIY costs,” “annual savings” and “annual carbon benefit.” The recommendations section also describes how to do things like lower the temperature setting on your water heater. These tools were more actionable aspects of Hohm, and I’ll have to concentrate on them until my utility comes through.

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  1. What to read on the GigaOM network Monday, July 6, 2009

    [...] followers’ Twitter stream (WebWorkerDaily) Former Joost CEO gets new gig as VC (NewTeeVee) Microsoft seeks user feedback for Hohm (Earth2Tech) Get your iPhone screen repaired at an Apple store while you wait (TheAppleBlog) [...]

  2. Feedback Wanted: Microsoft’s Energy Tool Hohm Goes Live « SmartGrid Current Monday, July 6, 2009

    [...] Feedback Wanted: Microsoft’s Energy Tool Hohm Goes Live Posted July 6, 2009 Filed under: Uncategorized | http://earth2tech.com/2009/07/06/feedback-wanted-microsofts-energy-tool-hohm-goes-live/ [...]

  3. The site is already down. After entering house profile and usage data for roughly 16 months, the site went dead. If you try to go to the home page, it takes you to Bing (wow, what an idea to generate traffic for your search engine). Yes, it’s a beta version. But, you don’t expect a product where you spend hours customizing to vanish on the very first day.

  4. Microsoft Hohm, More than Home Energy Saver Dressed Up? | Energy Circle Monday, July 6, 2009

    [...] your programmable thermostat? (Katie Fehrenbacher of Earth2Tech got a preview over the weekend and reports a 30% completion level.) That said, Hohm’s is a friendly interface. The graphics and messages are clear and [...]

  5. Steve Hindman Monday, July 6, 2009

    Both the DOE and Hohm sites are missing tankless water heaters in their profile questionaire. Hohm is also missing the ability to enter daily meter reads into the historical data.

  6. Peter Troast Monday, July 6, 2009

    Katie–

    It’s not surprising that you got only 30% through it. The Home Energy Saver tool created by DOE/Lawrence Berkeley Labs, that Hohm is based on, has been evaluated for accuracy against real world energy use, and the weight of 185 data entry fields, with so much opportunity for mistakes or abandonment, renders the results somewhat inaccurate against actual use.

    There’s more on this research on my post on Energy Circle here:

    http://www.energycircle.com/blog/2009/07/06/first-look-at-microsoft-hohm-is-it-more-than-home-energy-saver-dressed-up/

  7. Looking at some suggestions from Hohm from Peter’s snapshots, they are nice points but wouldn’t they be good to have regardless of the user’s energy consumption? Also does one need to continuously use the service once they learn and change their behavior? is it sustainable biz model, in other words.

  8. The site is really slick. It took me about 30 minutes or so to answer all the questions (I got 91% complete) and manually enter in my historical consumption data. I entered a lot of data, so the suggestions were very relevant and neat to read up on.

    However it looks like they are still trying to work out the bugs… on the main page it shows “How Do You Compare” where it compares your annual energy costs. It currently shows my home is $2,012 annual with the average home listed at $76,585,800,000 per year. And I thought my energy bill was bad! :-)

  9. Katie Fehrenbacher Monday, July 6, 2009

    @Peter Troast, interesting stuff. @Mikeymo, you got farther than me. Anyone out there that lives in one of the utility partner footprints, feel free to weigh in!

  10. links for 2009-07-06 « open.minded.tech Monday, July 6, 2009

    [...] Feedback Wanted: Microsoft’s Energy Tool Hohm Goes Live Are you ready to give Microsoft’s energy management tool Hohm a spin? On Monday morning at 6 a.m. (pacific time) Microsoft is opening up the doors on Hohm to the general public, about two weeks after the software giant revealed the idea behind its energy management tool. Hohm, which will enable home owners to track their energy consumption and potentially modify their energy behavior in a variety of ways, is in beta mode, and Microsoft told us it will be tweaking the software — making it smarter — according to user feedback. So here’s your first chance to give it a whirl and tell ‘em what you really think. (tags: energy) [...]

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