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Why Customers Who Are Moving or Selling Homes Are Most Likely To Participate in Energy Efficiency Programs

Encouraging homeowners to make retrofits when they aren't thinking about them is difficult. What could be easier is doing so when energy efficiency (EE) is top-of-mind for them. 

The question is: "When are people thinking about energy efficiency?".

The answer? When they are moving into a new home. 

In fact, USA Today rates “Improving energy efficiency” as the number one upgrade you can make to increase the value of your home. For example, a Remodeling.com survey found that homeowners could recoup 116% of the costs of attic insulation.

Homeowners are increasingly aware that HVAC, water heaters and window upgrades are cost-effective changes that provide a solid ROI when it comes time to move or sell.

“While renovating the kitchen and updating the bathrooms are both great improvements that can increase property value, making energy efficient upgrades will give you more bang for your buck.”

— SACHA FERRANDI, FOUNDER OF SOURCE CAPITAL FUNDING, INC. A REAL ESTATE FINANCE COMPANY

Despite this interest, this is an issue for utilities. Even if people are willing to make energy efficient upgrades, this does not eliminate the big problem of free ridership rate among their customer base. Free ridership, is of course, the degree to which energy efficiency program participants take incentives for projects which would have been done with or without the program.

Getting more program participation while reducing free ridership rate. In fact, on their own, they are both issues that the utility world has not seemed to figure out yet. Of course, for some states, there’s less of an emphasis on free ridership, but the fact remains that utilities must get their customers to participate in energy efficiency programs.

So, how can utilities get more people to make energy efficient retrofits, while actually showing that they influenced those decisions?

Answer: By targeting homeowners who are likely to move or sell their home!

These homeowners are the perfect candidates for EE programming. Why? They recently bought a new house, and want to ensure their new asset is as valuable as possible. Their family is moving in, and they want to sure its comfort and livability. 

A disgruntled homeowner who's used to what they're living in? Not happy when you tell them about a $2,500 HVAC incentive.

A new homeowner who's told about a free Smart Thermostat? They'll be thanking you, because that’s could raise the value of their asset.

There are a plethora of ways utility program managers may be able to do this, and some of them are listed below:

  1. Digital Marketing: Online platforms such as Facebook and Google allow you to show your ads to specific people who are in your likely range of people who want to move. With Facebook, you can actually use Interest targeting and ask Facebook to show your ads to people who are most likely to be moving. The ad might say something like, “Selling your home or moving? Learn how a new HVAC can increase your home property value by XX%!”

    A message like this would really resonate with the homeowner who is moving or selling their home.

  2. Surveys and Direct Mail: Another way of knowing what your customers are doing? Ask them!

    Short online surveys done via SurveyMonkey, or paper mail ones are an easy, effective way of figuring out which of your customers are moving, or not. You know that any customers that identifies that they may be thinking of moving would likely be interested in energy efficiency retrofits. Therefore, these individuals would be great candidates for marketing efforts down the line.


    The drawback of this method? It is rather time consuming, low-tech and sometimes, people just don’t want to be bothered.

  3. Implementing New-Age Software-As-a-Service (SaaS) Products: SaaS. It's not as complicated as it sounds. People have long dismissed utility engagement tactics as dated and low-tech, but that is simply no longer the case. Technology solutions such as MyEnergyXpert are able to take data science and AI, and integrate them with online platforms to identify homes that are ripe for participation.

    The technology exists where people will now be able to target homeowners who are most likely to enrol and when they want to enrol.

Utility program managers can now look like geniuses - people are participating because of them, and they can easily track why and how.

It's time to flip the script on utility customer engagement for energy efficiency programs. 

Sending customers 50-page unwanted home energy reports? There's no need. 

Dealing with contractors for complicated home audits? Forget about that. Wasting marketing and customer care budget on campaigns that won't work? Those days are over.

Giving customers personalized recommendations right when they need it? Sign them, and us, up. 

MARCH 21, 2019

 

Bruce Chen's picture

Thank Bruce for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on March 25, 2019

These are all some really great takes. I think part of the problem is that while these upgrades presumably make their money back more than any other upgrades, they are rarely in the face of homeowners. They think of energy costs as more or less fixed, so why bother.

For example, a Remodeling.com survey found that homeowners could recoup 116% of the costs of attic insulation.

Insulation is the great, classic example. It's not a 'sexy' upgrade, nothing you can see, and isn't much to get excited about-- except for the fact that it's savings are immediate and huge. That's why education is such an important part of the process-- and you're definitely right that when moving into a new home is the easiest and most opportune time to do that. 

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