Home Energy 101
Improving Energy Efficiency through Education
People who choose to go back to school as adults are often motivated by learning new skills, feeding their curiosity, or improving their financial prospects. This past fiscal year, over 150 “students” in BPW’s service territory enrolled in and completed a new program to provide Holland BPW residential customers with all of these outcomes over the course of a brief home energy walkthrough. The program is called Home Energy 101 as a way to indicate that it is an introductory course, meaning the content is not overly complex and anyone is welcome to participate.
Home Energy 101 is offered by Holland Energy Fund. Holland Energy Fund is a nonprofit partnership between the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works created in 2015 to support progress towards Holland’s Community Energy Plan.
Open to all homeowners, renters, and landlords, Home Energy 101 is completely free, providing residents at least $300 in value through tailored energy education and a customized (house-shaped) box packed full of energy efficiency materials that residents can install themselves. A trained local nonprofit educator visits customer homes for a 60-90 minute walkthrough to identify opportunities for energy savings and to let them know which rebates, grants, or other incentives they may be eligible for.
For all customers, these rebates include the newest Holland BPW rebates of up to $4,000 for heat pump heating and cooling systems, $1,000 for electric panel upgrades, and up to $150 for electric lawn tools, not to mention the dozens of other energy efficiency rebates. Customers living within City of Holland limits are eligible for additional rebates directly from Holland Energy Fund, doubling the Holland BPW heat pump rebates up to an additional $4,000 and also offering rebates for air sealing and insulation (a big focus of the Home Energy 101 walkthroughs).
Partnering with the Community
Home Energy 101 educator partners are looking to equip and empower customers to make efficiency improvements today and plan for their home’s energy future. Is home comfort the main concern? Carbon emissions? Minimizing monthly bills? The educator tailors the session to the customer’s individual goals. But just like in school, Holland BPW hopes and expects that for many participants the education experience will inspire them to pursue new topics and opportunities.
Home Energy 101 educator partner organizations include:
- 3Sixty (Eastcore)
- Good Samaritan
- Green Home Institute
- Habitat for Humanity
- Heights of Hope
- Latin Americans United for Progress
- ODC Network (Outdoor Discovery Center)
- Ottawa County Community Action Agency
- Westcore Neighbors
Home Energy 101 visits can be conducted by any one of these nonprofit partners. Residents may indicate their preferred agency when they sign up. To maximize participant ease and comfort with the program, female educators and Spanish-speaking educators are available to conduct home visits upon request. Holland Energy Fund pays these nonprofit partners for every home visit they complete, so participation supports the agencies’ individual missions as well. Because they are representing nonprofits, there is no sales pressure, since the educator’s recommendations do not tie to any product they are selling.
Evaluation is a key component of any education program. To know if this education approach is working, an important part of the program is tracking participants’ energy progress over time. By signing up, customers consent to share the past two years (and three future years) of electric and gas use with Holland Energy Fund. This allows educators to give residents an idea of how they are doing before they complete Home Energy 101, and it allows the program to watch energy use over time to see if participants are improving more quickly than their non-participating neighbors.
The most encouraging metric Holland BPW has seen is that Home Energy 101 participants apply for Holland BPW rebates at a rate that is twelve times (12x) greater than the general customer population. This means that participants are learning new things, understanding the importance of energy efficiency, and taking action based on what they learn. Any teacher would be proud!
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