Tracking a home's energy fitness

Blog Post | June 24, 2014 - 9:34 am
By David Ribeiro, Senior Researcher

If you’ve gone for a jog or visited your neighborhood gym recently, you may have noticed new accessories popping up amid the sea of iPhones and earbuds. There’s a good chance that some of your fellow runners or gym goers have been using wearable performance monitors—like the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP—to track their physical activity. Or perhaps you’ve seen a post from a friend on Facebook bragging about their new personal record for fastest mile. The idea behind these devices and apps is simple: the better you track performance, the more knowledge you have to improve your routine. To run that mile faster. To shed those last few pounds. And disclosing your progress on social media not only helps keep you accountable, but also provides encouragement to keep you going.

A similar idea has been applied to buildings over the last several years, although building managers may not have the urge tweet about their new personal energy management records. Several states and cities have implemented energy benchmarking and disclosure policies that require large commercial and multifamily buildings to be evaluated for energy efficiency, and then to disclose those evaluations to consumers. Montgomery County, MD became the most recent addition to this growing group with the passage of the first county-level benchmarking and disclosure policy.

Similar efforts are helping to address energy use in smaller residential buildings. Over a dozen cities and states have adopted energy disclosure policies for homes—and there’s a big opportunity for more cities to follow their lead. Residential policies implemented so far require the disclosure of one of two types of energy assessment: an asset rating indicating a building’s energy performance as it was constructed—like DOE Home Energy Score—or an operational rating detailing building energy consumption from past use, through benchmarking or the disclosure of utility bills or the energy efficiency characteristics of a building. To help government staff and community stakeholders interested in pursuing these policies, ACEEE has developed a new toolkit, “Residential Energy Use Disclosure: A Guide for Policymakers,” discussing the who, what, where, when, why, and, most importantly, how, for creating disclosure policies for the residential sector. The toolkit provides step-by-step recommendations on how policymakers can go about devising successful policies, from learning about important community resources, to facilitating an open dialog among all community stakeholders, all the way to implementation strategies. It is designed to inform communities with differing goals and needs on the policy paths that are best for them.

This toolkit is our newest entry in our Local Technical Assistance Toolkit, a resource aimed at facilitating low-cost, high impact policies that allow communities to achieve lasting energy savings.

We hope that communities will consider disclosure policies as a great way to help give homes slimmer and trimmer energy profiles.

Rachel Cluett contributed to this post.