Microsoft Hohm home efficiency site slowly becoming useful

Hohm sounds like a handy tool for those who are trying to cut energy consumption in a residential environment … an outlet metered PDU can be a tremendous help to those who are trying to manage power in a data center.

Microsoft’s Hohm website, an online service designed to make it easier for people to figure out how energy efficient their house is (and how to make it better), has become a great deal more useful with the new addition of real estate data. Now, anyone in the US can enter their ZIP code and get an instant, if approximate, evaluation of their house’s efficiency.

These evaluations use a combination of public housing record information and weather data to come up with a score. More dedicated users can sign in and describe their house’s appliances and construction to get a more detailed assessment of their energy usage, and advice on what changes to make to reduce energy bills.

This is all well and good, but the value of the site remains low for most US residents. Although residents of parts of California, Washington, and the Midwest can connect their utility providers directly to Hohm, providing more accurate monitoring, for most the option is unavailable.

The real meat of the project is in the data collection and analysis; among other things, it’s a showcase for Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, which is used to collate and crunch all the numbers people feed into it.

Hohm is also envisaged as being a key component in a smart grid, where devices will report their power usage (giving Hohm more data to analyze) and make decisions based on its recommendations. Energy companies will also be able to use this data to influence pricing and output levels.

In spite of increasing awareness and concern over energy usage, however, practical deployments of such smart grid technology are still some way off. And without the data such devices will provide, the value of Hohm is greatly diminished—for most people, it won’t tell them anything they didn’t already know.

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