Creating Building Solutions

As our process, and our software, improved, we became better organized and found it easier to get the work done while still taking the time to find more jobs.

September 07, 2008
September/October 2008
A version of this article appears in the September/October 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Marketing Challenges

In many ways, the nature of the industry makes marketing the product particularly difficult. The basic principles of home performance contracting are simple enough that your average homeowner can grasp them rather easily. However, the field is just complicated enough that it still takes some one-on-one time with the homeowner to explain each home’s potential problems, and the potential benefits of solving those problems, whether it be increased comfort, improved air quality, or reduced energy bills. Our software helps, but it can’t replace the need to work closely with our clients. And in some ways we wouldn’t want it to. The most rewarding experience in our job is the moment when an idea clicks with a homeowner—when you can see in clients’ eyes that they understand why it makes sense to do it a certain way. For example, one client was concerned that certain rooms in her home were too cold and other rooms were too hot.  After taking air flow measurements from her registers and comparing those values with the load calculation requirements for each room, we were able to present her with a graph showing the drastic differences between the required air flow and the actual air flow; the data ended up confirming her complaints!  She was immensely relieved to have her concerns understood and explained in a quantitative, scientific way.  And knowing we had thoroughly investigated her problems, she felt very comfortable with the solutions we offered.

Of course, getting the chance to sit down with homeowners has been another major challenge. Homeowners want to improve their homes, but in most cases they don’t even know where to start. We’ve found that many homeowners are immediately drawn to solutions like PV solar without understanding its place in the larger picture. Because PV has received intense media exposure lately, homeowners don’t always know that there are more cost-effective solutions that they might want to explore before going solar. For example, in one particular project we had a couple who were extremely eager to install a PV system because of their skyrocketing energy bills. However, the system cost far more than they could afford to pay.  Using our test, we were able to pinpoint a handful of areas where some simple, cost-effective fixes could make a huge difference. After we sealed the duct system to reduce AC expenditure, replaced an inefficient pool pump, and replaced all their incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs, their electricity bills were cut by over 40%. The couple could then purchase a PV system to handle the remainder of the electricity load at a price they could now afford.

In this particular case, the homeowners were fortunate enough to be able to get their home tested and explore solutions. But in many cases, homeowners don’t have this opportunity, simply because they don’t know that there is a service like home performance contracting—a service that can help them find the most complete, most cost-effective way to improve their home. We believe that getting the word out is a challenge shared by all home performance contractors, and that they should meet this challenge in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.

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