The (real) cost and value of energy efficiency

(Nerd alert. This is Andy again, giving another light economic policy analysis of energy efficiency. Feel free to ignore if you are a normal person.)

People in energy policy circles tend to talk in relatively blase terms when it comes to energy efficiency. The conventional wisdom is that energy efficiency is massive, simple and cheap:

“The ‘fifth fuel’, as energy efficiency is sometimes called, is the cheapest of all. A report by ACEEE, an American energy-efficiency group, reckons that the average cost of saving a kilowatt hour is 2.8 cents; the typical retail cost of one in America is 10 cents. In the electricity-using sector, saving a kilowatt hour can cost as little as one-sixth of a cent, says Mr Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute, so payback can be measured in months, not years.”

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A (free) home energy assessment might save your life

We here at Sealed are all about guaranteeing your energy savings. However, did you know that a home energy assessment could also save your life?

Before I go any further, a little introduction. I’m working with Sealed to spread the word about home energy efficiency while studying energy policy and management at Columbia University. And coming from Northern Europe (Latvia), I know how to appreciate a warm, cozy home that does not waste money.

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How the **** does Sealed work?? (Andrew McCarthy)

Hello, loyal readers! I’m Andrew McCarthy, and I oversee all of our customer-facing operations at Sealed. As this is my first blog post, a personal introduction is in order.

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Besides being handsome, charming, single, and modest, here are a few fun facts about me (all related to music coincidentally):

  • I once drove a member of the Wu Tang Clan to the airport
  • I not-so-secretly wish I were / think that I am Bruce Springsteen (maybe this is why I’m single)
  • I was part of a Blink 182 cover band in junior high called “8 Stories High”

Prior to Sealed, I taught 7th-grade math in New Orleans (hence my picture above…) and worked with a non-profit in Tanzania. Compared to that, home energy improvements are a piece of cake!

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5 common energy efficiency misconceptions (Dan Hochman)

Hi, my name is Dan Hochman, and I manage our efforts in New York. Prior to joining Sealed, I had the pleasure (and pain) of being the only non-engineer in an energy engineering Master’s program at Carnegie Mellon. I grew up in Manhattan but now rock suburbia on a daily basis (usually with 90s Hip Hop playing in the car).

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Most people tell me I’m a 65-year old living in a 25-year old body. My favorite customers discuss interest rate trends as I tell them about the efficiency of their boiler. Jewish grandmothers also love me – I’ve got a bit of Mensch on a Bench thing going on.

Working with Sealed, I have learned a ton about how homes use energy, and common misconceptions that many people have.

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The 3 biggest energy efficiency myths (Harrison Pao)

Hi, my name is Harrison and I’m a Junior at Columbia University. For the past six months, I have worked as an intern at Sealed, speaking with hundreds of homeowners that are interested in energy efficiency.

Based on these conversations, I have learned that many homeowners want to make their homes energy efficient to increase the comfort, health and value of their home as well as to lower their energy bills.

But I have also learned many of the misguided reasons why some people decide not to improve the energy efficiency of their home. These are three common misconceptions about home energy efficiency.  

1: It’s too expensive!

“These improvements are just too expensive. I want to make my home more energy efficient, but I just don’t have the money”

Perhaps the most common misconception about making your home more energy efficient is that it will be too expensive. However, energy efficiency can actually save you money instead of costing you anything!  

There are rebates and financing programs available in almost every state. The rebates lower the total cost of the project, and financing means there are no upfront costs. This means you have a loan payment that pays off your project over time.

But unlike any other home improvements, energy efficiency also saves you money by lowering your energy bills. These savings help pay for most (if not all) of the loan payment, making the project much cheaper than the sticker price, and in many cases negative!

I remember speaking to one particular homeowner, Jim, who was interested in improving the energy efficiency of his home.  He’d been meaning to fix his daughter’s room which was always cold in the winter, but couldn’t spend too much money right now because he’s already paying a mortgage and college tuition.

However, Jim became excited when I explained why these improvements can be affordable.  He especially liked that lowering his bills could result in a negative project cost, but was still a bit skeptical that these improvements would actually lower his bills.

 

2: What if I don’t actually save?

“But what if I make these improvements to my home but they actually don’t save me any money?  Why should I trust these improvements?”  

Previously, this was not just a misconception, it was a real problem. Any contractor can do work on your home and estimate your energy savings, say 20% on your heating bills. But since this is only an estimate, there is still the risk that these savings will not pan out.  

Sealed is unique because it removes this risk by guaranteeing that you will save on your bills. If Sealed guarantees that you will save 20% on your heating bills, but in actuality you only save 10%, Sealed will pay that difference so you save the full 20%. Sealed takes the risk for you so that you can lower your bills with the comfort of a guarantee.  

When I explained how Sealed guarantees savings to Jim, he recognized that by making his home more energy efficient he could make his home warm for the winter while ending up with extra money in his pocket.

 

3:  It’s a hassle!

“I don’t have the time and energy to make my home efficient. Plus, I just can’t deal with a mess in my home right now”

Trying to fix up your home really is often a hassle. Nobody wants to search for quotes and advice from different contractors or deal with a mess in their home for weeks.

But the great news about energy efficiency is that most of the improvements are quick and non-intrusive to install. Insulation, air sealing and HVAC replacement are all done in the nooks and crannies of your home so nothing is disrupted in your living areas. And most of the time the work is done in a single day, meaning that there is no lengthy process.

This was another concern of Jim’s. With a full time job and a young family he didn’t have the time to search for a contractor and didn’t want a construction crew disrupting his children. Jim was however very pleased with the work that was done to his home. The improvements were done in a single day so there was no mess, and his daughter’s room became more comfortable the very next day!

The bottom line is that, despite popular misconceptions, energy efficiency improvements are affordable, reliable and easy.

Please visit sealed.com to learn more about how you can make your home energy efficient today! 

#OpenEnergyMarkets and the EPA Carbon Rules

Yesterday, the EPA released their long-awaited carbon rules that aim to reduce US carbon by 30% by 2030.  

While there will of course be plenty of partisan bickering about jobs versus our burning planet, the more interesting issue question is how states will meet the carbon mandates given the flexibility in the EPA draft regulations.

In most states, energy efficiency will be the cheapest method to reduce carbon emissions. But these EPA rules should be a catalyst to dramatically scale energy efficiency via #OpenEnergyMarkets. 

Our friends at EnergySavvy made some great points in a blog post yesterday:

Even though the U.S. is on a positive energy efficiency trend – annualized electricity savings are up 82% in 5 years and utility programs saved 126 Terawatt hours in 2012 – the rate of spending has outstripped savings. Spending was up 155% over the same period to $6.9B in 2012.

This spending is almost 100% government and utility run “programs” that involve a considerable amount of planning, bureaucracy and inefficiency. To scale energy efficiency, therefore, the paradigm of command-and-control energy efficiency “programs” must end, and “program administrators” need to transition to “market administrators”. 

This starts with #OpenEnergyData, but also requires #OpenEnergyMarkets, which can be generally defined as the ability for third parties to get paid for generating verified energy savings.

These markets exist in a fairly robust manner in the Commercial & Industrial demand response space, with companies like EnerNoc managing load reductions for large manufacturing plants and businesses, getting paid by Independent System Operators like PJM that are in charge of managing the grid. 

In the residential sector, there are a few models of how #OpenEnergyMarkets can be created and structured. Perhaps the most advanced market is the California ISO, which has created rules enabling third parties to monetize peak demand reductions from residential homes. So far the most innovative company taking advantage of this market is Ohmconnect, which frames their business model this way:

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But while the CAISO market is a great model for residential peak demand reductions, it does not yet cover energy efficiency, or the reduction of energy regardless of time.  

The CT Class III REC market provides one example of an energy efficiency market in action. In this market, third parties can apply to the CT Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to get a project certified, and eligible to sell credits to electricity suppliers that are required to buy these RECs. Unfortunately, it is difficult for residential projects not run by the utility companies to qualify, as only 4/35 approved projects are residential, and those are all for lighting.

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Connecticut’s challenge is an ad-hoc process for measurement & verification (M&V), which puts pressure on the regulators to only approve things that have already been approved in previous processes. This makes things easier for regulators, but much harder for innovative companies trying to create new models for saving energy.

Illinois, on the other hand, represents perhaps the most mature energy efficiency market in the country today. Despite relatively low energy prices, Illinois enables third parties to bid energy efficiency programs to the Illinois Power Agency (IPA), which much be accepted as long as they are cost-effective. This simple, but powerful rule was embedded in Illinois’ 2011 smart grid bill to mandate that the IPA procure:

Cost-effective energy efficiency programs or measures that are incremental to those included in energy efficiency and demand response plans

There are now more third-party programs than utility-administered programs for ComEd, the biggest electric utility in the state. 

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This third-party program structure can eventually turn into #OpenEnergyMarkets if policymakers, regulators and utilities can design transparent protocols for measuring savings that meet the standard the EPA has set:

quantifiable, non-duplicative, permanent, verifiable, & enforceable

To reach this standard will require a thoughtful process that leverages the market templates that exist today, a commitment to #OpenEnergyData, and the adoption of a “market creation” mentality that rewards a new generation of companies dedicated to saving energy. 

Real environmentalists guarantee home efficiency savings (kidding…kind of)

Here at Sealed we have chosen to address the home energy efficiency sector by guaranteeing savings. There are a lot of reasons for working to reduce homes’ energy bills, including feeling good about lowering homeowner costs and creating local, green collar jobs.

But on Earth Day, of course, we focus on how Sealed can help the environment by reducing the amount of fossil fuels we need to burn.

As we think about it, Sealed is addressing the single largest carbon reduction opportunity (energy efficiency), the largest market within that opportunity (single-family homes), and the single largest barrier to scaling that market (confidence in energy savings). 

Energy efficiency as a whole represents the single largest carbon reduction opportunity. Based on the most recent McKinsey study, technical energy efficiency represents a 14 gigaton carbon dioxide reduction per year (i.e., a lot). 

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This represents the single biggest “wedge” to meeting our global carbon reduction goals. The best part of this is that energy efficiency has by far the largest “negative cost,” which means that you actually make money by deploying capital to make buildings more energy efficient.

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We can also look at the change in investment of energy efficiency compared to the extraction of fossil fuels in the next twenty years. Based on the latest IPCC report (the international organization that organizes all of the climate science), capital going into energy efficiency is going to jump tremendously, while capital in fossil fuel extraction will plummet.

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In the United States, it is even more dramatic, with energy efficiency representing over 50% of 2030 carbon reduction potential.

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Within the energy efficiency sector, single family homes represent about 50% of the total US energy savings potential.

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And as readers of this blog know all too well, confidence in energy savings is the single biggest value for energy efficiency that single-family homeowners want.

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So that’s why we think Sealed can make a big impact, and one reason why we are all excited to go to work every morning (also the free coffee – thanks WeWork!). 

We know we don’t have all of the answers, and we certainly know that there are many other pieces of the puzzle, but we are doing our best to help keep our planet safe (and cool). 

[Reposted] Energy Savings Guarantees 101 (Part 3)

(This is originally posted on Mike Rogers’ Omstout blog)

Part 3: To guarantee savings you need #OpenEnergyData

Savings guarantees are important, but are very hard to implement in a manner that is impactful. So where does that leave the home performance industry, policymakers and other stakeholders?

Luckily, there is a lot that can be done to make energy savings guarantees more prevalent and powerful. This starts and ends with data. In order to best guarantee savings, data on homes undertaking home efficiency improvements is needed to quantify actual savings, variance and other aspects of risk. Unfortunately, this data is difficult to obtain, combine and normalize, with various stakeholders holding different pieces of the puzzle.

The first challenge is simply obtaining data related to home performance improvements. Energy usage data is held by utilities, who typically require confidentiality  agreements and/or customer authorization. Obtaining energy usage data therefore either entails long, complicated negotiations with utilities or persuading homeowner’s to find and share their utility account information and/or usage history for the purpose of research. This has to be done for all energy companies, including hard to track fuels like heating oil and propane in many cases.

Once energy usage data is collected, home and project characteristics must be matched. Most utilities do not have this data, which is instead held by individual home performance contractors and the software used for home energy assessments. Homeowners themselves usually only receive a report that summarizes the assessment findings, so they can’t directly provide this data.

After pre- and post-improvement energy usage and the home and project characteristics are combined, the data must be normalized by weather and energy prices, as well as scrubbed for obvious data entry or modeling errors. This is a tall order, and not something most individual stakeholders can accomplish in isolation.

Currently, the only stakeholders that ever have regular access to all of this data are evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) consultants, although they often are not able to obtain all of the necessary data to perform a comprehensive analysis. EM&V consultants are also limited by a mandate to evaluate entire programs, including many considerations like free-ridership that are not relevant to individual homeowners or savings guarantees. Most EM&V reports therefore simply show average savings across an entire program, not the variability or other factors.

So as with most things these days, the answer lies in a hashtag: #OpenEnergyData.

More specifically, #OpenEnergyData means multi-stakeholder efforts to aggregate, clean and sort relevant data sets into a master Energy Data Center, a concept first proposed in California. More recently, DOE’s Buildings Performance Database(BPD) and  the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) with the Building America Field Data Repository (BAFDR) have taken national leadership on this front.

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A screenshot graphing a slice of the data from the DOE Buildings Performance Database

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be the appropriate sense of urgency in allowing access to these data sets. The BPD in particular has a policy of only allowing derivative analysis, not being able to analyze the raw (anonymized) data. You can see Sealed’s comments to the BPD here. The bottom line is they should be asking their data partners to allow the raw data to be shared.

The BAFDR (which will theoretically feed into BPD) looks to also have a ton of promise. NREL has gathered a good amount of data around home performance results, and are starting to use it to test the accuracy of various software tools. But it will be several years until this data can be analyzed by anyone other than the government, a proposition that is unfortunate given the value it can serve in the private market.

In the meantime, each state and utility company has the opportunity to become a leader. The Investor Confidence Project has been working with several leading state organizations to publish open data on clean energy loan performance. These stakeholders can go much farther by publishing actual energy usage and project characteristic data like air leakage numbers (in New York this was FOIA’d about a year ago – see Ted Kidd’s results here).

There are also many local laws (including New York City’s LL86) to mandate energy disclosure for multi-family and commercial buildings. These energy disclosure laws have already led to innovation and catalyzed new energy startups like WegoWise, which can now publish cool charts. Sealed is trying to do its part, working with the Town of Babylon’s Green Homes Program to publish the variance in realization rates.

Town of Babylon, Sealed, heating fuel, Realization Rates

It is time to bring this level of data transparency to more single-family homes. Sealed is part of the Cleanweb Initiative, and has started a discussion and draft#OpenEnergyData manifesto. Please check it out, give feedback (google doc so you can edit / comment directly), and let us know if you would be willing to sign the manifesto.

The bottom line is guarantees matter, they are difficult to implement, and we must all work together to build the data sets necessary to create more transparency and trust with homeowners and other stakeholders.

[Reposted] Energy Savings Guarantees 101 (Part 2)

(This is originally posted on Mike Rogers’ Omstout blog)

Part 2: How energy savings guarantees work

Like many things in life, for energy savings guarantees, the devil is in the details. While a guarantee is very attractive to homeowners, offering a guarantee can be difficult. The goal of any guarantee is to give a homeowner confidence in the benefits of the work being proposed. For a guarantee to be valuable, therefore, it must be something that homeowners believe is easy, simple and concrete.

Meeting all three criteria is more difficult than it sounds. Since energy efficiency is by definition the lack of energy, it is hard to measure and manage. Each guarantee balances the value of the guarantee with risk. A guarantee can be valuable to the homeowner, but include unacceptable risk to the company offering the guarantee. A guarantee can also manage all risks, but then be much less valuable to homeowners. A few examples demonstrate this spectrum of risk and value.

One of the first guarantees, cited by Mike in a past post on guaranteed savings, is offered by Bigelow Homes. The Bigelow guarantee can be considered the gold standard of energy savings guarantees. They literally say your annual heating or cooling bills won’t be more than $X each year. If you pay more, they will reimburse you for the difference. The challenge for this type of simple guarantee is that it has to be extremely conservative in order to deal with variance (less of an issue with new homes) and rising energy prices (particularly with volatile oil and natural gas prices). In fact, Bigelow Homes had to make their guarantee more conservative because of rising energy prices.

Energwyise Structures, based in Texas, offers a similar savings guarantee for new construction based on their superior designs. Like Bigelow Homes, they guarantee a cap on energy spending levels. However, Energywise limits the guarantee to HVAC, with metering installed to monitor performance. And while the guarantee agreement references dollar levels, it also cites related energy prices, implicitly making the guarantee neutral as to energy prices.

For existing buildings, a percentage reduction guarantee is much more common. For example, GreenHomes America offers a 25% heating and cooling reduction guarantee, although the details are not available on the website. These details are important, as we will see.

Masco also offers a “Limited Guarantee” to Environment for Living (EFL) homes. This guarantee is also focused on heating and cooling systems, setting a “Guaranteed Usage” heating and cooling amount that the home will not exceed. By defining the guarantee in terms of heating and cooling, EFL then defines the calculations used to determine heating and cooling:

“The following is a description of the method MASCO Home Services uses to estimate your Heating/Cooling Energy use: First, for the claimed Period, MASCO Home Services calculates the average of your three lowest months of energy use when your Home is occupied. MASCO Home Services assumes that this average estimates the energy you used for activities other than heating and cooling your Home. That average is then multiplied by 12 and subtracted from your total energy use during the claimed Period. The remaining amount estimates the Heating/Cooling Energy, which is the energy used to heat and cool your Home during the claimed Period. If appropriate, MASCO Home Services also may adjust the Heating/Cooling Energy to exclude energy use not related to heating and cooling your Home, such as seasonal use of pools and spas, and to account for any change in energy use for heating and cooling your Home related to any change or modification to your Home, its HVAC System or its occupancy.” 

The EFL guarantee also includes a series of homeowner responsibilities that are similar to many of the other guarantees:

“Your actions can greatly affect energy use in your Home. You are not covered under this Limited Guarantee unless you exercise prudent energy management for your Home. As a condition to maintaining this Limited Guarantee, you agree to:

1. Use windows and doors prudently when operating the heating, ventilating, and cooling (“HVAC”) system of your Home.

2. Follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding operation and service of the HVAC system of your Home, including annual inspections and filter replacement.

3. Set the thermostat of your Home at no higher than 72 degrees F during the heating season and no lower than 75 degrees F during the cooling season.

4. Notify MASCO Home Services of any change or modification to your Home, its HVAC system and/or its occupancy after the Start Date so that MASCO Home Services, in its discretion, may re-evaluate and make appropriate adjustments to the Guaranteed Usage. You will be charged a fee for any such re-evaluation or adjustment. MASCO Home Services may, in its discretion, refuse to pay a Reimbursement Amount under this Limited Guarantee for any material changes or modifications to your Home, its HVAC system and/or its occupancy.

5. Submit any claims and notices in writing to: MASCO Home Services, c/o Environments For Living program, 2339 Beville Rd., Daytona Beach, FL 32119. Any claim for a Period must be submitted to MASCO Home Services within 30 days of the end of that Period. For example, any claim for the first year of the Limited Guarantee must be submitted within 30 days after the first anniversary of the Start Date. You must include copies of your actual detailed monthly utility statements for your Home for the applicable Period and proof of the HVAC system maintenance and service work with your claim.

6. Permit MASCO Home Services and your builder to access your Home, upon reasonable notice, to inspect, meter and/or to make changes or modifications to your Home in connection with this Limited Guarantee. MASCO Home Services shall not be responsible for performance of and/or payment for any changes or modifications to your Home by your builder or any third party.” 

These conditions certainly reduce Masco’s risk, but unfortunately few homeowners would consider them easy, simple or concrete. The upside of this dynamic is the fact that, historically, very few homeowners make claims on savings guarantee (<1%).

The downside is that this probably means most homeowners don’t believe or value the guarantee. Since most guarantees make it difficult for homeowners to claim, this dramatically reduces internal calculations that it is “real” and therefore something to be factored into a buying decision. Think about all of the cheesy “money-back guarantee” commercials you see each day, and how realistic you think it is that you would ever actually return something.

Making a quote believable is therefore very important to make it valuable. A quote from a recent focus group on energy savings guarantees summed up this sentiment well:

“I just don’t understand how it would work … there’s so many variables. There’s no way that you can do that and actually stay in the black.”

In the last few years the solar industry has found a way to make guarantees believable in the context of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), where homeowners only pay for the power delivered (see an example from SunRun). A homeowner is guaranteed to pay based on actual solar power that displaces their utility bills. This billing is done automatically without any requirements for the customer to call the solar company.

Unlike energy efficiency, however, the size of this displacement can be easily metered and measure. In addition, the variance of solar panel generation is much lower than efficiency. In order to deliver a believable (and therefore valuable) guarantee, the issues of ongoing savings quantification and variance must be addressed.

My company, Sealed, is trying to address these issues in order to offer an energy efficiency guarantee for existing homes that is easy, simple and concrete. We do this by replacing a homeowner’s utility bills (electricity and heating fuel) with a single Sealed Energy Bill that is guaranteed to be X% lower than baseline energy bills, defined as a formula of baseload and weather-variable energy usage multiplied by current energy prices.

Sealed energy savings guarantee tableBy replacing utility bills, Sealed solves several problems. First, we remove the variance challenge, smoothing out the savings for each homeowner. In practical terms, this means that some homes will actually save less than the amount we have guaranteed, and some will save more. But any individual homeowner will always pay a guaranteed percentage less than their baseline amount.

In addition, Sealed automatically delivers these savings so that there is no need for the homeowner to monitor performance and contact us to receive the guarantee. Their Sealed Energy Bill always includes guaranteed savings no matter what they do.

Perhaps more importantly, Sealed visualizes the savings each month, making them a concrete number that can be digested and communicated to others. The goal is to give homeowners consistent reinforcement that they are saving money, making it more likely that they will refer friends, family and neighbor to Sealed or a home performance contractor.

Sealed energy savings guarantee offer

Sealed’s challenge is to appropriately manage the savings risk, both in terms of the project performance and any behavioral or moral hazard risk. We also need to change a 100-year pattern of homeowners paying utility bills instead of a new bill that focuses on savings. I can’t guarantee Sealed will meet all of these challenges, but we are certainly going to try, and hope many others will join us in that effort.

[Reposted] Energy Savings Guarantees 101 (Part 1b)

(This is originally posted on Mike Rogers’ Omstout blog)

As an addendum to the last post on why energy savings guarantees are important, I want to highlight an important new report published by the Center for Research & Public Policy (CRPP), and prepared for the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC).

This report is a follow-up to the survey report referenced in the first blog post around the important of savings confidence. It is a summary of Vermont focus groups focused on trust and confidence in savings. I encourage everyone to read it themselves, but below are a few choice quotes from focus group participants that underscore some of the points made in last blog post.

Difficulties calculating savings

“I have not really computed savings. It’s a little trickier than it might seem because you need to account not only for the time but the number of degree days to figure out one winter is warmer than the other, and so the reduction in spending doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been the result of saving. So we’re happy with the results. The house is more comfortable and less drafty, but we have not tried to compute an actually payout.” 

“It is hard to measure, though. That’s the – You’ve got variable costs on your fuel source, so it’s – Yes, I think we’ve gained on it, because I know the new wing was Energy Star built and all that stuff, but it’s hard to know how much. You just kind of get a feel that it was better than if you didn’t do it. But it’s hard to measure” 

“Our winters are so variable, that it’s hard for me to compare whether I’ve actually been saving money, or whether it was just a warm year, and I didn’t require as much heat during that time. Same with the energy efficiency.”

Lack of trust in estimated energy savings

Going back to the energy audit thing, I had one, and I was not happy with it either. The estimates were way inflated. I wound up doing most of the things that they recommended, but I did a lot of it myself, or I got other contractors, who were more reasonable, to do it.”

“If you’re not – some of us seem unhappy with the report or untrusting of the reports – how much you could even trust those kinds of forecasts. That’s – unless you really can get into the detail behind it, you kind of don’t know what data are they using to arrive at what they’re saying. Because if it’s a great ROI, you might jump at three or four of the things.” 

“It probably does depend on your house and your particular situation as to whether it will save or not, but I don’t think they have really good ways yet to estimate what you will save in part, as the gentleman over there was saying, it’s very complicated to try to figure it out” 

Attractiveness of a guarantee

“MODERATOR: How many would go with the higher savings, without a guarantee? Raise your hand. So the rest of you the would go with the lower savings that were guaranteed. OK, 100%.” 

“But if I talk to my neighbor, he wants a guarantee. He said – he’s an engineer – he wants it guaranteed that if he did similar work he was going to get these kinds of savings. And I said: ‘Well, I don’t – I can tell you what happened to me. But I don’t have a way of giving you a story that is sort of guaranteed by a larger database that this is how it will work.’”

“Yeah, a sense of accountability. Absolutely…Make a big difference…But it also sounds too good to be true.” 

Type of guarantee

“Third party [Guarantee], yes. Contractor, no.”

 ”A third party that was constituted in such a way that you believe that they were operating in your interest and not the contractor’s interest.”

“It’s gotta be somehow in the understanding, the document, that it is what it is at this point in time and if things change then however you address it”

Guarantee challenges

“I just don’t understand how it would work, and I know I’m being difficult but I just – I mean in Vernille [ph] – I used to work in Vernille Energy and there’s no way that, well, it was very – you never really saw companies making guarantees about production for the same reason. It’s just there’s so many variables. There’s no way that you can do that and actually stay in the black.”

“I’d be concerned that if they say you have to keep your heat at 68 degrees or lower, and their system says your heat went up to 70, but you know your thermostat is at 68, like that, to me, to make it void is just way too –”

“And I don’t know how you would factor in the cost of fuel and all that other stuff. It seems like that would be great if someone could do that kind of guarantee, but I think it would be enormously expensive.” 

The focus group participants were also asked to rate different strategies that could improve confidence. Interestingly guarantees scored extremely high except in the “stalled” group.

There are many other good nuggets in the report about trusted information sources, project barriers and investment mentality. I encourage everyone to read the full report to better understand how confidence can impact home performance projects, and ways to communicate with homeowners.