Proponents of checklist audits, screening audits, survey audits, Home Energy Score audits, free audits and even simple measure installation programs, can you explain how you overcome the "single action bias". Too often people respond to pleas to address a problem with a single small step--and feeling they've solved everything they don't do anything further.
"Oh, we don't need that. We already had an energy audit." A refrain that our folks hear out in the field, and a hurdle that must be overcome to move homeowners to action--meaning signed contracts that lead to the installation of energy-saving measures.
Saying that screening leads to action doesn't cut it. Let's see the results. I'd love to see the uptake from the ARRA-funded, CEC/Fresno project over the last few year. The best--although admittedly incomplete--information we have is that thousands of "audits" (ratings) led to very few retrofit projects. How does 1% uptake sound? If an audit cost $250, and a program does 100 audits to move one homeowner to action, that's $25,000 in screening costs per completed project (and that doesn't even include the marketing expense to make the phone ring to go do the audit!!). We've like to see closer to 100 completed projects for the $25,000 screening spend. Please, researches, crunch these numbers for us!
Mike, let me just say that I def hear you (and feel your chagrin).
My company went out with a few bucks from ARRA ($5,000 to perform 20 audits at $250 each), and we were able to convert 10 of the 20 audits to HP measures. Since then, 3 more of the initial 20 HOs who had the ARRA-funded audits have moved on HP measures. And, some of the initial HP measures have led to future contracts with the same 20 HOs we performed the ARRA-funded audits for.
My case may be unique considering that my company performs audits and implements HP measures.
We simply used the limited ARRA funds to stimulate action on the behalf of HOs that seemed to be on the fence. Perseverance and discounted HP measures worked for us, but I can't say I see how our approach could be easily replicated.
Lots of work for all us HP folks still yet to undertake before our industry gets anywhere!
Mike, do you think homeowners believe their audit validated their single small energy-saving steps in some way? You seem to imply that the audits only call for small steps (weatherstrip/CFLs/low-flo showerhead). It could be a case where they drop several $1000s for R-30 insulation in a previously empty attic and immediately feel such a big impact that they don't see the need to spend more $.
Btw, I noticed that the inventory of existing homes for sale is down 20% to 2.5 mil, but in areas hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, private investors are rehabbing distressed properties that normally wouldn't qualify for home loans. Seems like a great opportunity for energy efficiency retrofitters!
That is the right point Tom.
My big question is whether we HP pros will band together to take advantage of the distressed property rehabs. I have seen some, and they could have used a HP pro in their rehabs.
I have tried to reach out to the gentleman who runs another HP company in my area, and he was simply un-interested. Too bad.
Patrick--your experience is what I'd expect since you both do audit AND install measures. It matches what we experience.
Tom, your example may be the case, but that's not the point I was trying to make. Let me try again.
"Single-action bias" is our quirky human tendency to be willing to take one or two actions to address a perceived problem, but after that, but after that we start to believe we have done all we can, and and our attention begins to fade--and subsequent action drops off as a result.
So, if someone gets a "screening audit", we might be able to get them to them next step, but there is also a tendency to thing we're finished.
What if the next step is a rating--same thing.
Now what about a more comprehensive audit (the third touch?)
And maybe we install a few light bulbs or insulate a few feet of water pipe.
At each step above, without a great deal of care, we convince homeowners that they're done--including after steps that I wouldn't count as really even having started! You'll see mention of this in the "Driving Demand" report by Fuller, et al. I'd also recommend the quick explanation (certainly better than mine) in http://www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/_/pdf/CRED_Psychology_Climate_... [BTW, although that report is about Climate Change behavior, I recommend reading the entire report--very relevant to the home performance industry.]
There are ways to mitigate this (not eliminate), but in my experience that is the exception, not the rule. And too often we run into customers who think they're done because that had a home energy rating or installed a couple of light bulbs.
No everyone with take on a $60,000 or even a $20,000 project. But a surprising number will, and we don't need (or even want) multiple touches to get them there.
So, no only are free audits not free, they have the potential to actually inhibit action. We need to be careful we make about the assumptions we make here. The data exists--let's see it!
The key is targeting the audience. Often it's people who already have low power bills that are most interested in reducing them further, the audits and improvements rarely have a reasonable payback time.. The people with $3,000+ in annual energy bills are the ones that really NEED the audits, yet many have accepted high energy bills as part of life. Payback times could be considerably shorter since there is more "low hanging fruit" to go after.