If you live in Georgia chances are you've seen the Georgia Power energy hunting dogs "sniffing out energy savings". The ad campaign includes billboards and TV ads and is executed very well. From the Georgia Power website you can click on "Sniff out Energy Savings" for their Home Energy Calculator that gives customized energy saving tips based on what region of Georgia you live in and what type of home you have.
Using the calculator, you can run a comparison to try and figure out why your energy costs are different from last month or last year! The results of my comparison are seen below:
Keep in mind this is just an estimate that Georgia Power is predicting for your type of home and region. This feature gives Georgia Power users the ability to compare how well their conservation efforts are going. For instance, between this July and last July I've made a few conservation efforts (more CFL bulbs, one LED bulb, raised my thermostat more in the summer) but my real energy consumption went up 74 kWh over last year. If I wanted to get a better understanding of some of the factors contributing to the increase in energy consumption year over year, I could use the Georgia Power tool as a guide.
Using the Georgia Power comparison tool, they predicted my energy consumption would go up 686 kWh over last year! So either the tool makes a big error in accounting for the temperature impacts on energy consumption (overestimating the impact of higher temperature), or I'm just doing something right (mainly controlling my thermostat better). The huge increase in last year is almost entirely due to the hotter temperatures we've been having in Atlanta, GA. As you can see, they list the July 2009 average temp as 77.7° F and the July 2010 average temp as 81.6° F. Since most people don't control their thermostat very well they are going to spend way more money cooling their house than I am. If you don't live in Georgia but you do live in a similar climate (hot/humid summers), you could still use this tool to get an idea of why your energy bills may be higher or lower month-month or year-year.
Along with using the calculator to save energy, you can also get motivated to save energy by checking out energy saving dogs on the Georgia Power YouTube Channel. While Georgia Power is often criticized as being way behind the ball on renewable energy (like they are in this Atlanta Business Chronicle article about Georgia Power and Solar PV) at least they are able to put out informative tools and funny videos for energy conservation!