One of the most consistent questions we get at CUB energy consultations is “Who are those neighbors that I see on my bill that are using significantly less energy than we are?”
Many utilities have added a section on their bills or online portals that are comparing your monthly energy usage to that of your neighbors. These charts usually show how much energy an average neighbor uses and how much energy your energy efficient neighbors use. This is followed by how much energy you use.
The goal of the program is to use social pressure to encourage people to reduce energy usage. But who are these neighbors and how does the utility determine who to compare your household to? Comparisons are determined based on similar households within a close proximity, usually within a few mile radius, to your home. So, while it is a neighbor comparison, you may not be directly compared to your next door neighbor. Home characteristics include what type of heating is used, occupants, home size, and building type (single family, apartment, townhome…). Some of this data is collected from public record and some is based on what your utility knows about you. If you are an Xcel Energy customer, you can update your home characteristics to ensure the utility is comparing you with a similar neighbor by going into your online portal.
Many people are finding out that they are not as energy efficient as they thought the were. While each household has unique characteristics that impact how much energy is used, such as if there are medical devices that need to be running or the type of appliances in the house, it also provides good information on what you are able to do to cut back on energy use.
Things that you can do to save energy could range from behaviors such as unplugging electronics and using natural heat from the sun to warm your home to energy efficient upgrades such as purchasing Energy Star rated appliances. It is a good idea to check out what your utility suggests to cut back on energy use and take advantage of any rebates offered by your utility along the way. Every step that is taken in your household to reduce energy and save money is a step in the right direction.
While the comparison to other neighbors may not be perfect, what is important to remember is there is always ways to save money on your utility bills. This program is just one way to show that is possible. .