I spoke with a homeowner yesterday because his wife was upset about the power bill. He called me under pressure but his wife believed that their bill was too high. I politely stayed out of their conflict and explained what we offer but afterwards I kept thinking about the psychology behind spending money on your house.
First, he shared how he reinforced the insulation in his attic last summer for $1,700. “The bill went down considerably over the next few months.” Second, in response to an Energy Audit, “I don’t believe in wasting money like that.” He went on to further explain that an Energy Audit is not going to drop his bill; it is only going to get him to spend more money. Third, I could hear his wife say “It’s too cold in here and the bill is too high!” as he told me he would like to talk it over with his wife and give me a call back.
I am not a psychiatrist and I am not going to play one on my blog. However, this conversation reminded me of a story a marketing executive told me about car owner market research. Apparently, she put several car owners in a room all over the country. In each group, she asked, “Raise your hand if you got the best deal on your last car purchase?” Every single hand went in the air.
Why? When we spend a lot of money we want to believe we made a good purchase! We feel so strongly that we will naturally and unconsciously select the best data and ignore the other contradictive data just to support that decision. This can happen even to the most honest people.
I suspect that is what happened with this homeowner. I don’t know exactly which month he installed the insulation or which months he believes the bill went down. So I am only speculating that his power bill should go down a few months after the summer regardless of insulation. I think I am on safe ground because only a few short months later his wife is complaining about her comfort and the power bill. Despite her complaints right there on the phone he persisted that he doesn’t have a problem. I’ll let him face the consequences with his wife.
I hope he calls me back but it sounds like he has backed himself in the corner, at least with his wife. To acknowledge his wife or other data points he have to admit that he may have wasted money. To be fair, he may not have wasted money. It may be that he truly needed insulation but that the installer did not properly seal all of the access points from the home to the attic. If so, it is still fixable.
The first step is an Energy Audit to diagnose the problem. If you are reading this then you are probably already inclined to properly diagnose the patient before you treat her. However, not all treatments are expensive. There are many situations where the home has sufficient insulation but yet they are still leaking thru the attic. In these cases, there are plenty of low cost weatherization measures to take.
Also, as a part of your audit, homeowners should ask their auditor how they can measure the results. Do not gloss over this because there are some great ways to measure and monitor your home investments beyond looking at your power bill. TIP: If you are fixing a ‘leaking’ home then conduct a blower door test to measure the leak before and after.