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Home energy report card: not quite an A

Joan Fieldstone

November 12, 2014

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Green LivingElectrical

Sometime last year I started hearing the buzz about my utility company installing smart meters. Actually, the buzz was from people who seem to delight in warning me about what they consider government-sanctioned intrusions of privacy like vaccinations and chemically treated drinking water.

Being born at a time when it was considered nothing short of miraculous to be able to prevent epidemics like polio, I beg forgiveness if I am not quite as disturbed by such technological advances. This latest assault to personal privacy, however, was rumored to be another piece of evidence that Big Brother is indeed watching us.

Nevertheless, I felt no sense of dread when this supposedly invasive meter was installed. After all, I'm a writer and my life is pretty much an open book, so to speak. When I now access the utility company website each month to pay my bills and see colorful graphs of my daily, weekly and monthly usage, I find it sort of interesting, actually, even if I still find graphs a bit of a mystery. If nothing else, however, the bars and pie charts are more pleasing to look at than the numerals on my billing statement.

Energy graph

I didn't even flinch when BFF, who is a former fire fighter and electronics and electrical genius, mentioned in passing that some of these smart meters were thought to be the cause of several local house fires recently. I figured if she wasn't worried, there was nothing to fear.

Smart, but feeling dumb

What did upset me was when I received an additional piece of mail from the utility company titled, "My Home Energy Report." It compared my electricity usage to "3,114 nearby households" with a similar profile to mine, and it showed that I'm spending about "$85 a year more on electricity than more energy-efficient homes."

How can that be? I live alone. My home is newer than most homes in my area so it's better insulated. It's heated with gas, not electric. Okay, so I do leave my front porch light on 24/7 because otherwise I forget to turn it on at night. But in my defense, I have a low-wattage CFL bulb in it. Don't they use almost no energy? Big Utility, however, suggests that by turning it off during the day, I could save $66 a year. They also recommend having my A/C serviced each year. I confess, I should hang my head in shame. I thought maybe I could get by for a couple of years with just changing my filters more frequently.

I suppose I should be happy that the report shows my home "is more efficient than average." But when I was in school, an average grade for me was like suggesting that I'd failed. Among my friends, competition for the best grades was pretty fierce, and though mine were right up there with the best, they were never tops.

So now I'm embarrassed. After all, I write articles telling everyone else how to be more energy efficient! I promise to mend my ways.

home meter

As for an invasion of privacy, I'm still not concerned, but you know what really bothers me? The smart meter may actually be smarter than I am.

Photo credit to Joan Fieldstone

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