High-performance designers and builders working in the South and West might want to focus on pitching energy efficiency a little heavier, according to new data from the WhiteFence Index. According to data collected for last October, the average home bill for utilities (defined as electricity and gas) and essential home services (defined as phone, television, and high-speed Internet) was $246.26. However, Bankrate has the breakdown of 10 markets where the average bill is decidedly higher. Could this data be used as a potential market indicator for high-performance homes? Could it be that consumers in these cities are more interested than others in discussing high-performance technologies that can reduce their monthly bill? If so, where are the potential hotspots, per WhiteFence Index?

  1. Houston. Average bill: $297.33
  2. Orlando, Fla.. Average bill: $292.13
  3. New York City. Average bill: $288.76
  4. Dallas. Average bill: $277.26
  5. San Francisco. Average bill: $268.43
  6. Las Vegas. Average bill: $267.18
  7. Washington, D.C. Average bill: $258.21
  8. Phoenix. Average bill: $256.20
  9. Boston. Average bill: $255.86
  10. Charlotte, N.C. Average bill: $253.87

But let's dig into what you're really interested in. For a moment, toss out the amenities such as phone and Internet, and let's focus on electricity. According to WhiteFence Index's data, which surveys 20 U.S. cities based on their metropolitan statistical size (read: population density), the biggest electricity bills hit mailboxes or inboxes in Houston, Dallas, Orlando, San Francisco, and Phoenix, in that order, while New York City drops much lower in the rankings when amenities are pulled out of the equation. One thing to keep in mind is that WhiteFence Index is pulling from a limited data set, so while the data may be considered useful, it should not be seen as a comprehensive business case. Nonetheless, bigger picture data does prove that pushing energy efficiency as a way to reduce monthly bills might play well for homeowners in a number of geographic regions. For example, as we reported last month, in 2012 residents of Hawaii were paying the biggest month electric bill of all states, a whopping $203.15 while the national average is $107.28. How does your state fare? Click here to see a state-wide breakdown from the National Association of Home Builders.

Now put those phone and Internet bills back into the mix. They shouldn't be totally disregarded when it comes to home efficiency. The reason is that while  CBS News and the Associated Press are reporting that the average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes has dropped to the lowest point since 2001 thanks, in part, to more energy-efficient houses and appliances, the news outlets also note that the drop could be much more dramatic if we weren't plugging in more and more devices such as tablets, Xboxes, and smart phones. So while an iPad may only require $1.36 to power it for a year, more mobile devices are being plugged in and other home amenities, such as DVRs, run 24 hours a day, raising the question: Could this be a new segment of homeowner behavior for high-performance homes to target? Could our home automation systems play a bigger role in controlling these expenses and this energy use? We think there might be a few folks at Google who are interested in discussing this.