by Peter Buttrick | Nov 30, 2022
Anita I. and her family had to be innovative to survive a winter after experiencing a furnace failure in their Dunbar, West Virginia, home.
Anita placed small heaters in bedrooms and the living room, but the electric system in the home couldn’t handle any more, leaving other parts of the home, such as the kitchen, unheated during one of the coldest winters in nearly a decade.
“No matter how I moved them around, there was no power to heat the kitchen,” Anita said.
Heating the home that she shares with several of her grandchildren with space heaters was also anxiety-inducing for Anita, despite having no heat because of the furnace failure.
“I was so scared that the house was going to catch on fire,” she said. “I didn’t sleep well at all. I was constantly getting up in the middle of the night to check on them.”
Additionally, because her furnace failure, her home got so cold that her water lines froze six times.
“We had no water at all – thank God that it didn’t last for days at a time,” she said. “We kept bottled water for the kids to drink, and we got smart and would plug up the sinks to keep enough water to flush the toilet and tried to be inventive. We would pray for it to warm up, because we didn’t have water anywhere in the house.”
Anita was dreading the prospect of facing another winter without heat, little sleep and freezing pipes because.
“My daughter and I have been praying,” she said. “We called in a company, and they said it would cost $6,000 to fix our heater, and there was no way I to come up with that money. I just started thinking: how can I go through another winter like this?”
Then, Anita’s daughter spotted an article online about the HomeServe Cares Foundation, the charitable arm of HomeServe North America. Among other community outreach projects, the Foundation provides free emergency home repairs to qualifying homeowners that address safety and sanitary issues or improve quality of life. Anita and her daughter reached out to the Foundation for help, and Tamara (Tammy) Gross, a HomeServe customer experience specialist, was assigned to assist them.
“Tammy made me feel so wonderful,” Anita said. “I didn’t want to feel like I was begging, and she didn’t make me feel that way.”
Tammy connected Anita with McAtee Plumbing Heating and Cooling, a contractor with whom HomeServe regularly works, and a technician was sent out to evaluate her furnace failure. They found that the unit was over 30 years old, and it would be unsafe to repair it, so it would have to be replaced.
“The first gentleman who came out to check and see if it was repairable, as he was leaving the house, I told him, ‘Please pray that it goes through,’ and he just gave me the biggest smile and said he sure would. The young men they sent out were very respectful.”
The Foundation agreed with the assessment that the furnace needed to be replaced and covered the entire $3,100 cost of parts and labor.
“God has to have his hands over your company, because I am in awe over what you did for me,” Anita said. “You were such a blessing to me and my family. I thank God for you and call you angels because you are angels to me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but now I’ll be able to sleep at night.”
To learn how you can help your customers avoid furnace failure and get a good night’s sleep, contact us.
by Peter Buttrick | Nov 9, 2022
A major retrofit with an eye toward energy efficiency, including energy efficient heating, new windows, installing LED bulbs, improving insulation, replacing roofs and taking other actions to seal the thermal envelope can cut home energy use at least in half, according to an American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) study. Residential energy usage averages about 10,632 kWh annually per customer or a total of 21% of overall energy usage.
Deep retrofits would cut household energy use by 58% to 79%, depending on the age of the home, and there is an appetite for making retrofits in order to improve sustainability and energy efficiency. In a poll conducted by HomeServe on LinkedIn, 35% of those surveyed said they were considering replacing or upgrading their home’s insulation, matched by those who expressed a desire to install energy efficient windows, also at 35%, followed by those interested in upgrading to energy efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning at 30%.
However, the average cost for these retrofits from to $42,600 to $56,750, according to ACEEE – an expensive proposition. In the HomeServe poll, only 15% said they expected to spend more than $20,000, while 25% said they’d spend $10,000 to $20,000, 27% would spend $5,000 to $10,000 and one-third said they planned to spend $5,000 or less on energy efficiency measures. There’s a clear gap between what respondents plan to invest and the investment needed to move the needle on sustainability and energy efficiency.
Additionally, energy prices are the highest they’ve been in more than 40 years, increasing by almost 16% for electricity and 33% for natural gas. Partly driving the cost was a muggy summer that resulted in a record use of residential power in the third quarter of 2022.
Those mounting costs could add to mounting utility debt – U.S. families have approximately $16 billion in utility debt, almost doubled from the end of 2019, with $792 the average amount owed. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association warns that, paired with the rising costs, continued high arrearages will continued to be accrued, despite the additional $4.5 billion added to LIHEAP as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
In HomeServe’s poll, 53% of respondents said they were interested in making their homes more sustainable and energy efficient to save money on their energy bills, while another 25% said they wanted to help protect the environment and 23% wanted to increase their home value.
Rising energy costs and households struggling with being energy burdened may have influenced the energy efficiency measures poll respondents said they would like to incorporate into their homes – the majority, 60%, were considering rooftop solar panels, followed by a smart device to monitor their energy usage at 16%, a home electric vehicle charger at 13% and a home storage battery at 11%.
The largest energy consuming appliance in a home – and greatest opportunity to improve energy efficiency – is the HVAC system, which uses, on average, about 55% of a household’s energy. The HomeServe Advantage Program can help households across the market replace older, inefficient HVAC systems with high efficiency systems, all for one easily budgeted monthly subscription price. The program handles everything from home energy assessments and financing to installation and maintenance and repairs. Additionally, the installation includes a Honeywell T10 Smart Thermostat that uses a patented algorithm and local weather data to reduce runtime by 9% on average.
To learn more about how you can bring this affordable, energy efficiency program to your customers, contact us.
by Peter Buttrick | Oct 14, 2022
A New Offering for Utilities to Increase Customer Engagement and Satisfaction
Norwalk, Connecticut – Engaging customers is a challenge for utility companies, especially renters and low- and moderate-income homeowners because they may not need or be able to afford traditional energy-efficiency programs that are more widely adopted by other customer segments. One thing all groups have in common is that they own one – or more – smart phones, tablets, computers, and televisions. These devices are essential for people to stay connected to family, friends, work, education, entertainment and more, so when they malfunction or are damaged, it can be a major disrupter of daily life.
New Engagement Opportunity for Utilities
That’s why HomeServe launched HomeServe Tech Protection, a first-of-its-kind multi-device protection plan that includes smartphone coverage to be available only through utilities, enabling utilities to expand their customer engagement with a value proposition of interest to all customer segments. Through HomeServe Tech Protection, utilities can provide a solution that solves common problems for any customer with an affordable plan that covers all their essential devices.
“We know that approximately two-thirds of consumers would prefer to have one plan that protects their mobile phones with their other important connected devices, yet manufacturers, wireless carriers and retailer plans haven’t fully addressed this customer need with an affordable solution. The Tech Protection plan, offered through our utility partners, covers all mobile phones and tablets, computers and TVs within a customer’s home for one attractive price point,” explained Luis Quiroga, HomeServe’s SVP of Product. “By expanding the HomeServe customer promise into the connected device category, we are enabling utilities to expand into new customer segments with a convenient, money-saving option to keep their customers connected and engaged. We are thrilled to now be in market with the Tech Protection program with seven of our utility partners, and we look forward to expanding in the coming months.”
HomeServe Tech Protection has launched with seven of the company’s utility partners in select territories. Program availability will continue to roll out to additional markets in the coming months. By making HomeServe Tech Protection plans available to both homeowners and renters, utilities can bring a valuable new service to help their customers fill a void in available coverage for the electronic devices they use most frequently and, as a result, increase customer satisfaction.
Affordable and Easy
Plans start at $11.99 a month, provide unlimited claims up $3,000 per year on any three covered devices, new or used, and include a 90-day guarantee on covered repairs. Instead of having to purchase individual coverage for each device, a single plan covers all smartphones, TVs, tablets and computers against the most common types of damage, including drops, cracks and spills. Also covered are normal wear and tear, electrical surge damage, and malfunctions due to defects.
And the claims submission and repair processes are easy. Customers with a plan can quickly submit a claim online and can get repairs made multiple ways: at one of over 1,300 local affiliate repair storefronts, by mailing smaller devices into a repair depot, or in-home for larger devices like flat screen TVs.
Utilities interested in learning more about how HomeServe Tech Protection can help expand their customer value can visit our Tech Protection site.
by Peter Buttrick | Apr 11, 2022
Low- and Middle-Income (LMI) households have historically faced obstacles to becoming more energy efficient, despite the outsized impact efficiency measures would have for this population.
Low-income households pay more than 7 percent of their income on energy bills, three times that of higher income households, and if LMI households could reach average efficiency, their bills would be reduced by a third. However, many LMI households don’t have the savings or the credit to implement energy efficiency measures and aren’t aware of programs and incentives that could make efficiency more affordable.
Programs like the Weatherization Assistance Program and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program are operated by different federal departments, and a lack of coordination between programs in some areas make it difficult for LMI households to apply or leverage the programs to the best advantage. For example, if a household is consistently applying for LIHEAP funds, it may be an indication that weatherization would help lower the overall energy bill. However, if the same entity isn’t administering both programs in the community, then that connection made not be made.
Program awareness is made more difficult through a lack of trust in low-income neighborhoods, where predatory financial lenders have made residents wary of free or low-cost measures and there is a reluctance to allow people from outside the community into their homes, said Tony Reames, director of the Urban Energy Justice Lab at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Diversifying the workforce that conducts onsite energy efficiency measures and working with long-standing and trusted community partners, such as community centers or churches, is one way to elicit more trust and participation, he added.
Because of their struggles with affordability, one in five LMI households have reduced spending on food or medicine and 10 percent keep their homes at unsafe temperatures to reduce their energy bill. And, similar to food deserts, energy efficiency is often a costlier or more difficult to procure option in low-income neighborhoods than in more affluent neighborhoods. Many low-income communities have older homes that have not been updated because systemic policies such as redlining, resulting in housing stock that has poor efficiency.
Some states are addressing the financial obstacle by allowing on-bill financing or recovery, which allows rate payers to pay for efficiency upgrades over time, such as New York’s “bill neutral” program, established through the Green Jobs-Green New York Act and the Power NY Act. The two-tier program offers private market loans to those who can meet the credit requirements and a second, utility-financed tier for those who can’t. Those on the utility-financed tier also receive a lower interest rate, based on an area’s median income.
Oregon’s Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Technology Act offers a state loan program with an on-bill financing, that offers loans between $2,000 and $30,000 for efficiency and includes a free energy audit as part of the financing process. The Help My House program, launched by a group of South Carolina co-operatives with U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program funding, also utilizes on-bill financing to fund a whole-home energy efficiency approach. Those who participated in the pilot are paying off the 10-year loans through a surcharge on their bills. However, because they’ve saved so much through whole-home efficiency, there is an average $25 savings each month, even with the loan.
Legislators and regulators also expect utilities to include energy efficiency programs for LMI households in their portfolios. A partnership with HomeServe can help proactively address energy efficiency and safety for your LMI customers with a suite of optional home repair policies that cover every energy contingency, from gas lines to exterior electric to HVAC and water heaters.
LMI households will often not address maintenance and repair issues, even if it means their whole home systems are not working efficiently, because they can’t afford to address them. For example, an annual HVAC system tune-up can ensure that systems are working at an optimal level and that small issued are addressed before they become big problems. Water heaters also require regular maintenance and lose efficiency over time, with most having only a useable lifespan of only 10 years.
HomeServe policies can address all these issues for your LMI customers and help them keep their home energy systems in the best shape possible. For more information about how we can help your customers improve their energy efficiency, contact us.