Federal Government Gets The Message Of Energy Efficiency Out To Homeowners

Clean energy advocates tout the power of energy- efficiency improvements. Changing windows, adding insulation, sealing air ducts, installing efficient lighting and other upgrades can go a long way toward reducing power bills.

Such improvements – the industry calls them “retrofits” – are the low-hanging fruit of the green-energy movement. It’s been shown time after time that a minimum investment can result in maximum returns. In hot regions such as the San Joaquin Valley in California, power bills can be the second-largest monthly expensive behind the mortgage.

Cutting power says money. It sounds so simple, but the federal Department of Energy says energy conservation is not a pressing issue for most people. So, the agency is trying to come up with a plan that would encourage energy conservation among homeowners.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unveiled some recommendations for prodding homeowners down the energy-efficiency path, and for guiding the government’s future efficiency programs.

Sell something people want: identify an issue such as health, financial savings, energy security or comfort to attract public interest;

1. Target the audience and tailor messages accordingly. A blanket marketing campaign won’t work;

2. Partner with local organizations and local leaders, and build on existing relationships;

3.Language is powerful: avoid using words such as “retrofit” and “audit.” Focus instead on concrete examples, personalize the material and frame statements in terms of loss rather than gain;

4.Contractors can be used as program ambassadors;

5.Make it easy, make it fast: package incentives, minimize paperwork and pre-approved contractors;

6.Repeat the message: advertising studies show that people need to be hit with a message at least three times before being convinced. Energy efficiency can be a tough sell because homeowners have to spend money to reap the benefits. Plan a multilayered campaign;

7.Rebates, financing and other incentives do matter;

8.A well-qualified workforce is essential: promoting a program before contractors can handle the workload leads to disgruntled customers;

9.Be patient: programs need to last for more than a year or two to be successful;

10.Use pilot programs to test strategies.

Lawrence Berkeley’s report came out one day after Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a new federal program that offers certified contractors new software to show how much energy homeowners are wasting and to offer low-cost financing to finance improvements.

Dubbed “Recovery Through Retrofit” (thus going against the recommendation listed above to abandon the phrase “retrofit”), the software produces an energy score for each homeowner.

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