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Lessons from Energy Efficiency Advisors: Getting Homeowners Onboard with Home Performance

Posted by Scott Mellberg on July 21, 2014
Lessons from Energy Efficiency Advisors: Getting Homeowners Onboard with Home Performance
It's in the numbers: As many as 70% of the homeowners participating in Populus residential advising programs complete home energy upgrades.

Homeowners are often aware of the different problems they experience in their homes: uncomfortable rooms, high utility bills, poor indoor air quality, etc. However, homeowners are generally unfamiliar with the concept of home performance, the whole house approach, and how energy efficiency upgrades can address these concerns. We regularly hear these stories and find that by listening, asking the right questions, educating, and providing guidance, we can help homeowners feel comfortable with a whole home approach and help them address their concerns.  

Populus, LLC administers the Home Upgrade Advisor service for the Bay Area Regional Energy Network and is very familiar with the barriers for homeowners to complete comprehensive energy upgrades. As a third-party implementer and advising service for efficiency programs around the country, Populus is committed to helping homeowners understand the value of home performance and take advantage of whole house efficiency upgrades and program incentives.  

We find that once homeowners really understand the concepts and benefits of a whole house approach, they are much more likely to get on board and they often end up pursuing multiple efficiency upgrades. Even better, those upgrades often address many different concerns, which they may have been unaware of originally. The end result is an overall better quality of life, reduction in energy use, better protection against future utility rate increases, and a very satisfied family.  

However, because home performance is not yet a widely recognized concept and solution for various issues homeowners are experiencing every day, it often takes extra effort to get someone on board who would otherwise really benefit from an energy upgrade. For contractors, it requires more time, resources, and a strong commitment to home performance in order to help educate your average homeowner. For homeowners, the overwhelming nature of building science (not to mention the different energy efficiency programs and requirements, complexity of the various solutions, etc.) can leave them feeling overwhelmed, pressured, and unclear about the significant impact that taking a whole home approach can have. Homeowners also have the option to work with non-home performance contractors who often offer lower prices. From their perspective, insulation is insulation, right? These are common barriers that Populus is able to address through our third-party advisor model and by taking a “People First, Buildings Second approach.

By focusing on the homeowner first and uncovering their primary concerns and motivators for pursuing an energy efficiency upgrade, Populus advisors are able to develop trusting relationships with homeowners and ensure that they really understand the various concepts and benefits associated with a whole home approach in a way that makes sense to them. We then provide homeowners with time, resources, and guidance throughout the entire process to ensure that they have access to the resources necessary for them to feel comfortable and confident about moving forward with a whole home upgrade. Because Populus is an independent third party, homeowners can trust that their advisor is not trying to sell them on upgrades they don’t need, which helps them feel reassured about moving forward with projects. Through this approach, Populus is able to drive higher participation and larger projects in home performance programs. 

Insulation is not just insulation and a furnace is not just another furnace—there is a much bigger system and picture to consider and understand. A commitment to helping homeowners understand what we as BPI Building Analysts and home performance professionals know and practice plays one of the most important roles in homeowner involvement and commitment to energy efficiency and should be a core principle for anybody trying to get homeowners involved. 

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