A question for all the home energy pros. 

Do you request utility bills from the customer before a home visit for an energy audit? 

How successful are you in getting the bill from the property owner? 

Would online access to energy usage data help you in having a better conversation with the customer? 

Tags: bills, utility

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Hi Solymoly,

Utility bills are always added information that can be considered, but we can't rely on them as home owner activity and desired temperatures can vary widely. 

On a recent heat loss evaluation I asked the oil company if they could give me the previous 2 years of fuel use.  They replied they could only release that information to the previous owner, this was a new home purchase.  That person was not available so we could not get that information. 

On another home the owner provided what she had for receipts but she purchased her oil in various quantities and rarely filled the tank.  With oil it is a challenge to relate fuel use to heating needs. 

So sometimes that info just isn't available and even when it is, it is somewhat unreliable.We also have many homes that mix in wood heat and only have a guess as to how much they used.

Maybe I just deal with a lot of difficult customers :)?

Bud

Hi Bud, 

Thank you! for your insight into some reality dealing with the property owner. Currently, we are providing the utility bill download service for some Solar installers in CA. They use it create more reasonable proposals. 

In the solar scenario, the comparison may be slightly more efficient since we are dealing with electricity alone for grid tied systems. We were able to save 5-7% of cancellations due to online access to utility bills. Some owners were online most of the time, and it was easy to click a few buttons and provide hourly data access to contractors. Again, these are only available in certain utilities exclusively. 

I certainly feel that technology can vastly improve throughput and efficiency for Energy efficiency experts.  

I have them sign a release for the Utility to provide the info.  The only problem I've had is with one Propane Distributor that was not really willing to give me the info, If I was trying to talk his folks into going GSHP. 

Our regulated Utilities are required to maintain and provide 36 months, the non-regulated utilities use the same software so they also have several years. Non-regulated here are municipal and other member owner organized such as Rural Electrrc Coops.

If I get a spreadsheet from a homeowner, It is usually filled with lots of data that is not relevant and many times I have to insert a monthly calculation to add the bucks together; or they have missing data. If they have the bills filed, then I am getting a huge pile of copies in the mail or they want me to get it at the audit. So I can write it down or take pictures of each monthly bill.  

The release is easier, faster and more accurate.

Always. For electric, with permission, I can get that through our local HPwES provider, Efficiency Vermont. If electric consumption is a client's concern, I will ask for access to their on-line account, or for the information needed to set one up. I can then view electric use by month, day or hour, and I can compare this year to previous years.

Here in Vermont, fuel prices for propane and fuel oil are not regulated. I ask the client to get me 3+ years of fuel history, showing the date and gallons of every delivery since about 3+ years ago. Sometimes the dealer sends only the total gallons delivered from Jan.1 to Dec. 31. I will then try to get the history that I need. Some fuel dealers will not share fuel history for previous owners (I think that their software only prints out a report that includes prices and payments, which they don't want to share or reformat), but others will. Some fuel dealers will not share fuel history for previous owners because they believe that they are not allowed (I have only had this problem with the BIG companies, like Suburban and Irving).

With a 3 year history, you can average and look at possible trends. I can often find a fill-up for the beginning and end of Summer, to estimate how much fuel is used just for water heating, clothes drying or cooking, if they use the same fuel for heating. If there was a notable change in use, such as being vacant for the year before they bought the house, you can take that into account.

If you know the fuel history in advance, you will often have an idea of whether it is excessive or not when doing your audit. If it appears to be excessive, you can look more closely at things that might affect fuel use.

Online access to a customers utility information would be very beneficial prior to arriving at a home energy assessment. I don't understand why there is not one online tool for all electric and gas utility companies. I perform assessments in an area where there are four different utility companies. We are required to review utility information for all assessments. The information the homeowner provides us is in all types of formats which is time consuming to review properly. 

Hi John, 

We are working with the Utilities to get access to the information. We currently have access to utility bills for the state of CA. We are slowly expanding to different states in the US. 

Here is how it works in our online tool. The first time you hear from your customer we send them a welcome email. They respond to the email and authorize (a simple button click). We directly pull it from the utility and display usage data in our online tool for further analysis. 

If you (or anyone on this thread) need early access, please let us know. Please let us know your utility name. We will inform you once we onboard them. 

Thanks,

SolyMoly

Your process sounds cumbersome and introduces an unneeded third party. What I have has worked for 7 years and with 26 utility companies. The only slow down is when 1 company one time snail mailed the usage to the customer, who then scanned and emailed it to me.

Why should I introduce an extra cost and unneeded third party to the process?

We are proposing an online tool that automatically grabs usage data with the customer's approval. There is no scanning involved here. 

1. Emailing the customer and asking them to click a button is not an additional third party process. It enhances your current process. You don't have to stop making the manual requests you do today. 

2. Think about winning back that 3-5 % of deals that fall through the cracks due to non-availability of electricity bills. It takes a lot for the customer to find a paper bill, scan it and send it to you. 

3. The proposal you present to the client would consider hourly interval data and not summary aggregated monthly bills that are snail mailed. It's that much more accurate. 

 

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