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spf helps homeowners cut energy bills

Residential Energy Savings

Explaining SPF for fun and profit

By Robert Naini

In the United States, almost 25 percent of the energy consumed can be attributed to residential consumption. Single-family residences use most of that energy, around 80 percent, and multi-family residences and mobile homes use the remaining 20 percent. This means that single-family residences consume 20 percent of all the energy consumed in the United States. So, let’s look at residential energy consumption and see what opportunities there are for residential energy savings.

Looking at the big picture, why do houses use energy?

Well, in our day and age, here in the 21st century, we like to be comfortable, and oh, do we have our creature comforts:

  • Lights
  • Television
  • DVR/ DVD player
  • Computer (s)
  • Chargers for all of our devices
  • Appliances, including Refrigerator, Microwave, Stove, Oven, Dishwasher, Washer, and Dryer

And of course, we owe these luxuries to the energy available in our homes.

Even more than these comforts, we like to feel comfortable in our homes, so that means controlling the interior temperature and humidity with HVAC systems, to which the Department of Energy (DOE) says: “Heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes.”

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME? 

So, if single-family residences consume 20 percent of all the energy in the United States, and HVAC systems account for more than half of a typical home’s energy use, then more than 10 percent of the energy use in the U.S. is directly related to the heating and cooling of homes.

Congratulations, as an insulation contractor it appears that you are in the right industry, because you can help a homeowner save money on their largest energy expense and you can help tackle the massive energy consumption across America related to heating and cooling homes. Or can you?

You see, on the surface you would think that homeowners would jump at the opportunity to save money on their energy bill, but statistics from energy efficiency programs show that this is not the case. Rather than energy efficiency programs exploding in use and growing at an exponential rate, they tend to grow quickly, from use by early adopters, and then plateau. This points to the fact that the average homeowner does not care enough about saving $100 per month, reducing their energy usage, or saving the environment in order to commit to energy savings upgrades or to spending the money upfront.

Does this mean we are dead in the water when it comes to most residential clients? No. If these clients are not willing to make a decision based on energy savings alone, we just have to think about what they do want, what they are willing to buy, and how we can help them, so they will make a decision now.

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As I mentioned before, as humans we absolutely need to be comfortable, especially in our homes. And the two components of the building that affect how we feel are the HVAC system and the building envelope.

Congratulations once again, as an insulation contractor, you are in one of the right industries to help homeowners.

Now, what problems can you solve that they care enough about in order to make a purchasing decision right now? What about feeling comfortable inside their homes? The hot spot in the back bedroom? Or the cold floor that causes them to always wear socks around the house? What about ice dams in the North? And moisture issues in the South? What about indoor air quality in general? Mold and mildew? Allergies?

But wait, why are homeowners more likely to buy these solutions?

APPEALING TO EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCES 

Let’s pause for a quick sales psychology lesson. People buy based on emotion, and then they justify that decision with logic later, after they have decided to buy. This means that you will have more success landing clients when your leading solution has emotional appeal to it.

Which one of these do you think is more likely to get a homeowner’s emotions involved and get them to take action?

“Mr. Customer, when we insulate your home you will save up to 30 percent on your energy bill and your payback will take less than five years. Here are the details of the spray foam package. Sign here and we can get started next week. Is Tuesday or Thursday better for you?”

Or “Mr. Customer, when we talked previously you explained how indoor air quality was a significant concern because your family has previously had a bad experience with mold and you have several allergies in your family, so we have developed a solution for that. Our plan will create an air-tight seal that will reduce the amount of air movement and control the interior environment, reducing the infiltration of pollen and other exterior contaminants, and will help the air conditioning system maintain relative humidity between 40 to 50 percent, so not even dust mites can grow. Here are the details of the spray foam package. Sign here and we can get started next week. Is Tuesday or Thursday better for you?”

Clearly, the second close will be more effective. It engages the emotion of the customer and provides the logic of how your solution will accomplish their desire. It just so happens that an added secondary benefit of your solution to their current problem is that they will also save money every month. Look at how that worked out.

Now, back to our regular scheduled program: What can you do that will improve a homeowner’s comfort and help them save energy? Well, just about everything you can do with spray foam will affect both comfort and energy efficiency.

What about that hot spot that pops up in the back bedroom every summer? The culprit could be air leakage allowing heat in from the outside or it could be heat gain on the ductwork because the ducts are sitting in the attic, the hottest part of the house. You can solve both of these problems. An air seal package, featuring your favorite spray foam, will help reduce the air leakage. Or, create an unvented attic, with spray foam applied to the underside of the roof, and then move the ductwork into conditioned space. Both of these solutions will put money back into the homeowner’s pocket. (It should be noted; however, these could also be HVAC-related problems. You have to realize that in building science, you are not going to be able to solve every problem with spray foam.)

What about cold floors in the winter? Sounds like that floor just needs some good ol’ fashioned insulation. Oh, it has insulation? Right, there are batts shoved into the cavity under the floor, but they sag and settle and eventually there will be an air space between the floor and the insulation. Then, because that fiberglass batt is air permeable, air passes through it, and that space between the floor and the insulation gets cold and so does the floor. This is the perfect opportunity for you to remove the fiberglass and spray an adhesive insulation under the floor. Result? Cold floors are gone and energy savings are in the bank.

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What about those ice dams in the North? The roof warms up; melting the snow immediately in contact with it, and then that liquid refreezes when it reaches the uninsulated eaves. Identify why the roof deck is warming and solve that problem.

What about moisture in the South? Well, studies have shown that air leakage carries up to 90 times more moisture than vapor diffusion; so, in these instances, air sealing to reduce air leakage becomes priority number one. Then, working with a mechanical contractor that understands spray foam and can help control interior humidity levels becomes a critical partnership.

So, next time, when residential energy savings is the topic, rather than leading with an energy savings solution, make sure that you ask enough questions in order to address more emotional, comfort-related concerns first. Once you demonstrate how spray foam will solve those issues, then you can let your clients know that, as a secondary benefit, they will also save money every month. Know the facts and use them to address the issues. You can choose to just be “an insulation guy” or you can become “a comfort specialist.” It’s your choice. •

Robert Naini has a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from the University of Texas in Arlington. With more than a decade of experience on the cutting edge of spray foam insulation, he has helped hundreds of owners and managers grow their business with a unique knowledge base including spray foam sales & marketing, employee & applicator training, building science awareness and building code expertise. Spray Foam Advisor offers web-based training and education, with videos, articles, blogs and more, to help solve problems for spray foam professionals and the construction industry.