Wealth of knowledge: Sharing home energy tips may lower utility bills

Would you be more willing to improve your home energy efficiency if you knew that your neighbors could see the price of your energy bill each month? An energy company in Ohio is hoping that its users will make smarter decisions about their energy use if they are made aware of the energy habits of other homeowners in their community.

Duke Energy will be sending a "My Home Energy Report" to 240,000 of its customers in Ohio. In each report, homeowners will be able to see the most energy-efficient homes in certain clusters of homes with similar sizes, locations and ages, along with average energy consumption figures.

The program, which has been in effect for one year, has saved participating homeowners an average of $20 in annual energy costs – a 2 percent decrease. While this figure may not seem substantial, the company is hopeful that as more homeowners institute energy improvements, a crowding effect will take over, compelling more residents to adopt energy-efficient processes.

"We know neighbors talk and compare their bills," Duke Energy vice president of retail customer products and services Mark Wyatt said in a press release. "By showing customers how their actual energy usage compares to their neighbors, we believe they'll make changes to be more efficient and, most importantly, save money."

Homeowners who work together to achieve home energy efficiency can share tips that have worked for them. In the Tri-State area, a Washington, D.C. home inspector with experience conducting energy audits could be utilized by entire neighborhoods to suggest areas where homeowners can improve. Neighbors all confront the same issues related to home maintenance – weather patterns, natural disasters and public policies – so they may collaborate to achieve energy efficiency.