- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

If you're like me, you really didn't get around to winterizing your house as thoroughly as you could have until about now. Just when the cooler air is moving in (unless you're in the deep southern regions of the United States), you start thinking about that extra layer of insulation in the attic, the weather stripping around the door and caulking around the windows.

While the energy bill rises during this time of year, despite media hoopla about energy woes in California, our country on average is actually doing pretty well on its energy costs.

A recent report surveyed energy costs around the world and the United States came in 14th with an average cost of $1,291 per year to heat and cool a house. Conducted by Runzheimer International, the survey placed Tokyo and Hong Kong as the most expensive places to cool and heat inthe world.

The average annual heating/cooling cost for a three-bedroom dwelling in Tokyo is almost $6,000, with Hong Kong coming in at more than $4,600 per year. Runzheimer analyzed annual utility costs for a three-bedroom dwelling based on the most popular energy sources (oil, gas, electricity) in the respective locations for heating, cooling, cooking, lights and water.

The highest energy cost locations are:

1. Tokyo $5,896

2. Hong Kong $4,654

3. Mexico City $4,521

4. Paris $4,247

5. Quito, Ecuador $4,205

6. Caracas, Venezuela $3,014

7. Amsterdam $2,963

8. Oslo $2,626

9. Toronto $2,374

10. Jakarta, Indonesia $2,344

11. London $2,129

12. Manama, Bahrain $1,809

13. Sydney, Australia $1,486

14. A standard American city $1,291

15. Cairo $970

While $1,291 sounds pretty affordable, it's obviously not the same for everybody. That's where Energy.gov comes in handy. At Energy.gov, the official Web site of the Department of Energy, there is a ton of information on what to do with your house to make it more energy efficient and save hundreds of dollars per year in doing so. One of the best spots on the site is in its Efficiency section,where homeowners can conduct an online diagnostic of their house.

Through an online partnership with www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov/, the Energy Department has created a useful tool to find out how well or how poorly your house uses energy. Just enter your ZIP code and it takes you to your area of the country with average energy costs and a simple interactive site to figure your personal dwelling's level of energy consumption.

It is here that I found out my Washington-area house is actually above average, but not necessarily in a good way. The average Northern Virginia annual utility cost runs about $1,500 a couple hundred dollars more than the nationwide average.

For my particular house, my energy consumption is even worse almost $2,000 per year. At first glance, I figured this had to be a wrong calculation from another online calculator put together by some bean counter who knows nothing about where I live and therefore nothing about my energy costs. What's scary is that it's right on target with my average monthly outlay for my monthly home energy cost about $165 per month.

To find out how your house fares, visit www.Energy.gov, then click the link to "efficiency" on the left side of the site, then click "Home: Custom Energy Audits" under the "Energy Tool-Kit" section.

The tips on cutting energy costs are sensible and many of them are either low cost or no cost to implement.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 12 years. Reach him by e-mail ([email protected]).

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