“An amazing initiative” ... “a really valuable local initiative” ... “a beautiful project to be part of”
In 2021, SOS conducted a home energy efficiency project in Apollo Bay. One workshop was conducted early in the year and later, a Council grant was used to conduct another workshop and seven energy efficiency assessments of homes. That work was conducted by Richard Keech, a nationally renown energy efficiency expert. Those seven assessments have been described on the S.O.S. website.
Six months after those assessments and the provision of a report to each participating household, a S.O.S volunteer followed up with the case study participants as a final step in the project. In a free flowing discussion, each householder responded to 10 set questions. Most (5 of 6) participants rated the assessment “very useful” or “useful”. One household, a team already well advanced on energy efficiency and very conscious of their energy use, did not find it useful. Others appreciated various outcomes including one household for whom the assessor’s investigation revealed that they had 3-phase power capacity, providing potential for large solar capacity and instantaneous hot water.
Some outcomes were not anticipated such as the whole project raising householders’ consciousness of how to simply use less energy in their homes.
Participants’ perceptions of the value of the assessment seem to be affected by three factors: how far down the path of energy efficiency they already were; whether the recommendations seemed cost-effective and ‘practical’; their attention drawn to previously unknown but significant weaknesses in their energy system. For example, one householder described the impression on him of seeing a thermal image of a draught (eg. around an old downlight or skylight or absent insulation), information that cemented the need to make changes.
Six months down the track, most of the participating households had taken some action that had been discussed in the assessment: tradespeople had been engaged/completed quotations, quotes had been obtained on solar panels and/or installed panels; roofs had been prepared for panels; skylights had been removed, lights changed to LEDs; costs of new electric appliances had been investigated; draught stoppers had been installed, and/or window seals; or a decision had been made to buy a battery and an EV.
Having already attended to major efficiency improvements, two households saw that any actions remaining were expensive and/or disruptive and/or unacceptable aesthetically.
The follow-up revealed some common barriers and common enablers related to the practice of home energy efficiency assessments.
Cost is a barrier for most householders, especially if they have already made efficiency improvements and if their appliances are not old;
Each householder must find the balance between what they can afford and what should ideally be done, including, for some, making compromises on aesthetics;
Time and disruption convenience are barriers;
A feeling that the assessor is not sensitive to the householder’s situation, particularly finances;
The availability of tradespeople and the very challenge of finding expertise is a challenge for many householders;
The community is not wholeheartedly supportive of issues like home energy efficiency and there is even a lack of understanding of how important it is - this holds households back.
The written report which was considered valuable for both immediate reference and for the long term as a planning document;
Prompts/reminders/updates from S.O.S to keep thinking about making efficiency improvements;
A copy of Richard Keech’s practical book is handy in the home;
Recommendations of where to get tradespeople and providers to avoid time wasting and errors
S.O.S and other providers can benefit from suggestions made by participating households about how to make the workshop + assessment project even more valuable. We could provide further assistance by providing a list of tradespeople and providers and keep locals informed about available government grant opportunities. We could also help maintain community commitment to home energy efficiency by providing ongoing information and suggestions about small/doable improvements to our homes. As we had planned to do before COVID restrictions prevented us, S.O.S could bring residents/participants together in roundtables to share experiences and learn from each other. As we know, one-off events can be too easily forgotten. Also, those householders who had referred to Richard Keech’s book suggested it could be better promoted and made more readily available in the community.
A final suggestion from one participant was that “The bigger questions that S.O.S needs answering could be set up as PhD projects.”
Optimising home energy efficiency in and around Apollo Bay is a key strategy of the S.O.S. mission to achieve 100% renewables by 2030, and, having completed this project, we are now investigating how to take it to an effective scale.
1 June 2022