What is comfort energy?
I recently wrote an article on comfort energy efficiency for an Op Ed piece on Energypriorities.com. While this is geared towards the dealers that are helping consumers home become more energy efficient, I think it conveys an important message: home performance professionals must remember that comfort in the home is vital to the service they provide, and consumers must remember that they should factor in the value of comfort when deciding what energy efficiency changes to make in their home.
This industry is surely changing, both for the businesses that run it and the consumers who are taking energy efficiency into their own hands. I would love to start a dialogue about these relationships and the disparity between the two. Does the value in energy efficiency always have to be scientific, or can we find middle ground to give comfort an ROI? Read on and let us know what you think!
Adding Comfort to Science
When working on Indow Windows’ Google Adwords campaign Google’s ad planner indicated that there are 400 consumer searches for ‘Replacement windows’ for every search for ‘Home Performance.’ As the CEO and marketing planner for a window insert product that is primarily sold through Home Performance Contractors, I realized the data was of profound importance to my company and to the entire Home Performance industry.
The Google search data reinforces what our Home Performance dealers are telling us, which is that almost all of the time homeowners start their search for comfort and energy efficiency with their windows. The reason is starkly evident: they can see and feel their cold (or hot) windows.
This presents Home Performance Contractors and Residential Energy Efficiency programs across the United States with a conundrum. As one-time American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds are depleted, many of these programs find their futures in doubt along with the livelihoods of many home performance contractors who built their businesses to satisfy the demand generated by the ARRA-funded programs.
How can EE programs and HPCs continue to thrive and deliver energy savings in a post-ARRA world?
Some current thinking about how to make energy efficiency programs thrive focuses on whether deemed measures deliver on their promised savings. Others have rightly advised that Home Performance Contractors modify the language they use to be more customer-friendly.
While such approaches are clearly needed, the EE industry must also confront a central dilemma: the customers whose behaviors we are trying to influence start their search for energy efficiency with their windows — and window replacement is typically among the least cost-effective of energy saving measures.
Unfortunately, building science has put the EE industry squarely at odds with the number one consumer priority, setting Home Performance Contractors up for failure by asking them to explain to customers why their perceived priorities are wrong.
Customers that do engage with the programs often are left with an unhappy outcome because after spending thousands of dollars on insulation and air sealing, they can still see and feel their windows letting in cold drafts. The result is lower customer satisfaction with the HPCs and the EE programs, resulting in much lower word-of-mouth marketing. And as we all know, word-of-mouth marketing is ultimately a critical determinant of who survives and thrives in the marketplace.
That’s if the Home Performance Contractor is lucky enough to have a conversation with this customer in the first place because the customer is not searching for them, they are searching for solutions for their windows.
Unless energy efficiency programs can find a cost-effective solution for windows, these programs will continue offering solutions to questions that customers are not asking. As a consequence too often they will not encounter consumers during their hunt for home comfort and energy efficiency solutions.
Indow Windows’ experience with the Clean Energy Works Oregon program indicates the positive role lower cost window insulation solutions such as window inserts can play in driving overall programmatic success and HPC prosperity. In cooperation with our dealer Neil Kelly, Indow Windows successfully markets Indow Windows and the leads we generate turn into full home performance jobs.
Indow Windows marketing programs reach consumers who are looking for solutions for their homes’ energy efficiency and comfort problems. They call Neil Kelly wanting to learn more about our innovative window inserts. When the Neil Kelly sales representative visits their home they explain how the customer can finance their Indow Windows purchase and other energy saving upgrades with low cost financing through the Clean Energy Works Oregon Program.
This is a win-win-win formula. The customer is happy because their windows provide comfort and the problem they identified is solved. Neil Kelly is happy because about half the time a $2,000 Indow Windows job turns into a $20,000 home performance retrofit. Clean Energy Works is happy because their EE program thrives.
Rather than argue with the customer, smart EE programs like CEWO and HPCs like Neil Kelly embrace cost-effective window insulation solutions like Indow Windows and their business grows.