Assessing the energy-efficiency information gap: results from a survey of home energy auditors
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Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for 42 % of all U.S. energy consumption and 41 % of U.S. CO2 emissions. Engineering studies identify several investments in new energy-efficiency equipment or building retrofits that would more than pay for themselves in terms of lower future energy costs, but homeowners and businesses generally do not have good information about how to take advantage of these opportunities. Energy auditors make up a growing industry of professionals who evaluate building energy use and provide this information to building owners. This paper reports the results of a survey of nearly 500 home energy auditors and contractors that Resources for the Future conducted in summer 2011. The survey asked about the characteristics of these businesses and the services they provide, the degree to which homeowners follow up on their recommendations, and the respondents’ opinions on barriers to home energy retrofits and the role for government. Findings from the survey suggest that the audit industry only partially is filling the information gap. Not enough homeowners know about or understand audits, and the follow-through on recommendations once they do have audits is incomplete. But the survey findings suggest that low energy prices and the high cost of retrofits may be more responsible for these outcomes than failures of information.
KeywordsEnergy efficiency Climate change
JEL classificationL94 L95 Q40
he authors wish to thank Ian Shapiro of Taitem Engineering in Ithaca, New York, Richard Burbank of Evergreen Home Performance in Rockland, Maine, Troy Tanner of The Home Energy Detective in Manassas, Virginia, and Elizabeth Crabtree of Efficiency Maine Trust for comments and suggestions on draft versions of the RFF Survey and Joe Loper of Itron, Inc. and Chandler von Schrader of EPA for comments and suggestions on draft versions of this discussion paper. All remaining errors are our own. Funding for the survey comes from RFF’s Center for Climate and Electricity Policy.
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