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Home Energy Use

What tools would help you plan energy efficiency upgrades to your home?  Are there current tools that you use when planning your upgrades that should be listed on


Home energy efficiency upgrades & tools

Last year, I did a number of energy efficiency upgrades on my house.  The tax credits helped, and I used as a "shopping cart" for which upgrades/incentives I wanted to use - that was helpful.

As far as tools go, I think IMBY (In my Backyard) is an excellent tool for prospecting a solar panel on your house.  It is simple, consumer-focused and takes just a few minutes to determine whether it would be "worth it" to look into solar panels further on your house, or to convince your landlord to consider the upgrades.

More tech-savvy energy planners can use the System Advisor Model (, which "makes performance predictions for grid-connected solar, small wind, and geothermal power systems and economic estimates for distributed energy and central generation projects".

I also used a variety of electric cost calculators to determine how much CFL's would cost, and the cost of an in-window A/C unit or evaporative cooler versus a whole-house unit.

On the "human side", I spent a lot of time on the phone with the Governor's Energy Office in Colorado and various contractors to determine how much insulation would help.  In the end, I save $30-$50 year-round due to the insulation I installed, making the pay-off of these projects right around three years.

Not to chat too much, I am also REALLY excited about OpenEI's utility rate database.  This is a crowd-sourced database, and is now the largest freely available utility rate database in the United States.  On top of this, DOE just awarded a nearly-$1 million contract to grow and maintain this already valuable data set.  This allows apps the capability to get a zip code and find detailed information on the cost of electricity!  Great stuff..

  Ryan McKeel


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