EE Programs Offer a Great Example of How to Confuse Consumers

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Different HEE Scores and RatingSetting aside the question of whether a label for home energy efficiency will drive change in the near future, let’s look at what we should not be doing…which is kinda what we are doing.

If we think labeling a home with a score or rating is a good idea, we should PICK ONE and do it. Alas, just for starters, we have things like the HERS Index (not to be confused with the earlier HERS Score), the Energy Performance Score, the Home Energy Score, and even the Home Energy Yardstick which is still up on EPA’s Energy Star website. These use different scales, so there’s a bit of confusion. Some have high scores as better, some have low scores as better, adding to the confusion. And of course, they’re presented differently, too, so the average consumer doesn’t have to learn to read one. She would have to learn to read several. Now, add to that a variety of “green” labeling schemes, many of which are assumed to be indicators of energy performance and it gets worse.

Federal HEE ProgramsWe don’t have to stop at different labeling regimes. Looking at just some of the federal programs touching on home energy efficiency, directly or indirectly, and we see a jumble of programs with overlapping and sometimes conflicting messages. I suspect figuring out how these programs intersect is difficult enough for industry insiders. For the average consumer…forget it. And that is just at the federal front. We can add state, utility, local programs each one of them better than the others and thus needing a name to differentiate. We can add green labeling from NAHB and LEED to local and regional systems. It’s a mess.

And it’s clear as mud. In sum total, we’ve got a collection that makes understanding home energy use very difficult. Our messaging is all over the place. We’ve got little to rally around. And sometimes folks wonder why homeowners don’t get it?

What is we started agreeing on common messaging? On common approaches? I dare to imagine how much more effective we could be if we didn’t care who got the credit. But I’m not naive enough to think that’s going to happen. So it’s time to decide to let the market keep ignoring programs or pick some winners and move forward much more quickly.


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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+


  1. Adin Maynard  February 11, 2013

    Mike, Another great observation.
    A good approach to branding a program would take into account how the consumer understands a specific program or product in a crowded sea of options and information. I would like to see a large utility program hire some skilled marketing consultants that have a familiarity with the industry, yet also take the time to understand customers’ experiences. As you point out, the existing approach to overcoming the information barrier often negates the user experience, resulting in confusion.

  2. Laura Stukel  February 10, 2013

    Great post. The different scales and scores graphic says it all! I spoke to an MLS exec last week about numeric scores on listing. When I explained that some go up and some go down her head almost exploded!!! Count MLS staff and vendors in the class of folks totally overwhelmed!

    • Mike Rogers  February 10, 2013

      Thanks for that input, Laura. I hadn’t been thinking about the real estate industry, but of course that makes perfect sense, too. Confusion doesn’t help sort this out for too many people or stakeholders–go figure!


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