Home Energy Coach Program: lessons learned from a pilot study in Waterloo Region, Ontario
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The uptake of energy-efficiency investments in the residential sector is relatively low, despite evidence of short payback periods and numerous co-benefits, including increased home comfort and reduced negative environmental impacts. Common barriers facing homeowners include financial and time constraints, competing priorities, and a lack of adequate information. Home energy audits are an established approach to encourage energy-efficiency investments, with the intention of overcoming the informational barrier by providing personalized energy-efficiency recommendations to homeowners. However, literature suggests that the impacts of these audits are mixed, due to a lack of guidance, procedural information and support from social networks. To fill this gap, the Home Energy Coach program was piloted in Waterloo Region, Ontario, involving government, non-profit, industry and academic stakeholders. Upon receiving an EnerGuide home energy evaluation, homeowners were eligible to participate in free consultation sessions with an Energy Coach to help develop and execute a renovation plan. This thesis documented the coach interactions and renovation progress of 21 program participants through a series of online surveys, with added insight from follow-up interviews with five of these participants. The results indicated that the Energy Coach was helpful in the development of renovation plans of many participants by clarifying the audit recommendations, helping to evaluate options based on each household’s circumstances and guiding participants to additional resources. At the end of the program, 17 out of 18 exit survey respondents had made progress on or completed at least one-energy efficiency measure, with an overall conversion rate of 29 percent from audit recommendation to completed action. The most frequently completed measures were basement/crawl space insulation, draftproofing and window/door replacement, which were also the most frequently recommended measures. This thesis adds to the literature on motivations and barriers to energy-efficiency investments in the residential sector and on the potential role of a coaching service to guide and support homeowners in overcoming these barriers. Future research is needed to determine the impacts of this program on a larger scale and over a longer timeframe, with the potential for added insight from utility consumption data or the presence of a control group.
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