Focusing on payback to motivate customers?

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My experience has shown that focusing on payback is usually one of the least effective ways to motivate homeowners to invest in projects that save energy. Other motivators like comfort, healthier homes, lower bills (yes, that’s a different message than payback!), and sometimes even environmental messages resonate better and help encourage people to sign on the dotted line and open their check books.

A new study by Reuven Sussman and Maxine Chikumbo at ACEEE, “How to Talk about Home Energy Upgrades“, seems to validate that with some experimental findings. In that study, payback was the poorest performing message. The report is worth a read.

And it’s also worth reconsidering how you talk about projects. If you emphasize payback above other messages by default, you might want to reconsider.

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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. Kricket Smith-Gary  November 13, 2017


    I agree- having built 500+ energy efficient homes since 1979- I think the biggest motivators are comfort and the security of lower energy bills. The mortgage amount will remain constant, taxes will go up and energy costs will go up- the only controllable increase is through better energy conservation- both on the demand side and the product efficiency side. Those especially relevant for my homes on stand alone PV systems – reducing demand is the biggest money saver there and the most understandable to the consumer. Generally this group of customers includes better educated buyers who look for energy information, knowledge and experience on the part of the builder, and a long lasting sustainable product offering.


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