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E Source Blog

Welcome to the E Source Blog! Our staff will share insights and observations about life at E Source, our events, our research, and other fun stuff.

July 1, 2013 | Alexandra Behringer - Associate Director | 0 comments

Residential HVAC equipment represents a critical opportunity for energy savings, since more than half of the energy use in homes is due to heating and cooling equipment. However, we know that poor HVAC installation practices—resulting in deficiencies in equipment sizing, airflow, and refrigerant levels, as well as duct leakage—can negatively affect achievable energy savings. As a result, increasing numbers of utilities are requiring that contractors follow proper or “quality” procedures for the installation of residential HVAC equipment.

To support the quality installation of HVAC systems, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) established a national minimum standard—the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ACCA 5 Quality Installation (QI)–2010 (HVAC Quality Installation Specification)—also referred to as the ACCA Standard 5 (PDF). In spite of the standard, we’ve heard from many E Source members that they often face challenges in implementing HVAC QI programs for residential customers, citing issues such as:

  • Low customer demand for QI services due to lack of awareness that ...

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June 27, 2013 | Justin Rickard - Research Manager | 0 comments

Forward-thinking utilities are beginning to implement proactive social communications with their customers. I hinted at this in my last blog post, where I provided some analysis from the E Source Utility Social Media Survey 2013 (XLS).

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Topics: Social media
June 24, 2013 | Jay Stein - Executive Vice President | 1 comments

You want an air-conditioning (AC) system for a low-rise commercial building in sticky, humid Houston, Texas? No problem. The air-conditioning industry has a product for you: a packaged rooftop unit with direct-expansion cooling, as described on a local HVAC vendor’s website in Houston. How about for a similar building in bone-dry Phoenix, Arizona? Again, no problem: a packaged rooftop unit with direct-expansion cooling, as described on a local HVAC vendor’s website in Phoenix.

What’s the problem here? Our one-trick-pony HVAC industry uses essentially the same equipment for cooling in a wide variety of climates. Yes, there are products available other than packaged rooftop units, but the packaged units dominate the market. Though the development of standardized products in the HVAC industry has certainly built up the scale of manufacturing—which has driven down prices—it’s also led to some inefficiencies in equipment operation. There are very different dynamics at play in cooling a building in a humid climate versus cooling one in a dry climate, and an AC design that ignores those differences by using the same equipment in both places ...

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June 21, 2013 | Justin Rickard - Research Manager | 0 comments

I engage on social media platforms every day for various reasons. Whether it’s providing relevant content to the E Source Utility Customer Experience Leaders Group on LinkedIn, checking out the cool energy-saving gadgets on the E Source Pinterest page, or posting random stuff on Facebook to family and friends (in the evenings after work, of course), social networking consumes a good portion of my waking hours.

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Topics: Social media
June 21, 2013 | Rachel Reiss Buckley - Research Practice Director, DSM | 0 comments

Smart thermostats—those that are Wi-Fi–enabled, have mobile platforms, provide usage history and HVAC maintenance reminders, offer demonstrated energy savings, and verify load reduction—are all the rage right now. There are myriad technology choices, plus many ways to structure utility programs. How do you determine what’s right for you? The E Source Forum, as well as E Source content, can help!

At the upcoming E Source Forum to be held September 17–20, 2013, we’ll have a session devoted entirely to this topic. You’ll hear from the following experts, who will provide actionable recommendations to those interested in smart thermostat programs.

Scott Jarman, consulting engineer at Austin Energy, is running a pilot program where customers purchase their own thermostat and then receive an incentive to link it to the utility’s demand-response programs. Not only will Scott share his experiences with this innovative program model, but he’ll also disclose his firsthand feedback on working with the various thermostat technologies and vendors (Ecobee, EnergyHub, and Nest). After almost a full year of testing, ...

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June 19, 2013 | Mike Hildebrand - Senior Director, Strategic Customer Relations | 0 comments

Do you market to business customers using the same messages and channels you use for your residential customers? Well, you shouldn’t! Business customers are a whole different animal. They want to be treated as businesses, not as a mass market or an extension of the residential segment. In fact, businesses want to be treated as though you know their specific sector, be it Grocery, Lodging, Manufacturing, Restaurant, Retail or any other industry. How do we know this? We asked more than 4,000 business customers throughout North America. Some highlights of our research show that business customers:

  • Prefer e-mail for most types of communication, for example, energy-efficiency information, newsletters, and rate changes. When you send them e-mails, be sure the subject line is relevant and specific. Only when communicating about outages should you contact businesses by phone.
  • Look at paybacks, return on investment, and costs as the most important factors when making energy-efficiency decisions.
  • Don’t use social media for interacting or engaging with their utility—not even for outage communications.
  • Rank “Works ...

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June 19, 2013 | Rich Goodwin - Product Manager, Customer Experience & Marketing | 0 comments

What would you do if your utility were to be hit with a major disaster or event? How would you communicate with your customers? Reactively or proactively? What contact channels would you use?

As we all know, there have been many natural disasters recently. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires have struck various parts of the continental United States over the past year. All of these disasters are different, but the impacts on the utility are very similar:

  • Massive outages occur.
  • The restoration process is slow and complex.
  • Customers demand answers and updates.
  • The media hound the utility for updates.
  • Government officials require that effective communciations be conveyed.

At the 26th Annual E Source Forum being held September 17–20 in Denver, Colorado, we’ll present Communicating with Customers Before, During, and After a Major Event, highlighting two case studies of how utilities responded to this challenge during Hurricane Sandy, which hit the mid-Atlantic last fall. And you’ll learn how social media can play a major role in those communcations.

Let’s ...

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June 13, 2013 | Justin Rickard - Research Manager | 0 comments

“Such loyalty is admirable, of course,” said Scrimgeour, who seemed to be restraining his irritation with difficulty, “but Dumbledore is gone, Harry. He’s gone.”

“He will only be gone from the school when none here are loyal to him,” said Harry, smiling in spite of himself.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling

As a society, we hold loyalty in high regard—a virtue above all virtues. Loyalty is a common theme in our literature, our politics, our relationships, and our business. I’m fascinated by loyalty and the reasons why it holds power over us. One possible reason for loyalty’s influence is the foundation of trust that’s established. Without the aura of trust between two people, there’s no reason for each to stand by the other when times get tough. Harry and Dumbledore had developed a trust over the years that culminated in a bond that stretched beyond the grave. Emotional connections play a fundamental part in the development of loyalty. We could say that Harry and Dumbledore developed a profound emotional connection that culminated in loyalty. ...

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Topics: , Brand & reputation
June 12, 2013 | Rachel Cooper - Manager | 0 comments

Do you want to create and manage effective energy-efficiency (EE) programs for your small and midsize business (SMB) customers? Do you want to suggest technologies and energy-saving opportunities that SMB customers are most likely to participate in? Do you want to market these programs to your customers in a way that instills trust in your organization? Based on conversations I’ve had with some of you, I think you might. And if you don't, you will after finding out that E Source data can help inform your marketing and targeting strategies.

That’s why E Source analyzed primary market-research data from the Small and Midsize Business Gap and Priority Benchmark survey to develop a series of sector-specific marketing profiles. The survey data represent a geographically diverse group of SMB customers from 16 utilities across the US. The profiles are designed to help utility marketers better understand and more effectively target different types of SMB consumers for successful marketing of efficiency programs and energy-saving opportunities.

For example, when asked the question “Compared to managing your other business expenses, how important ...

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June 6, 2013 | Matthew Burks - Director, E Source Strategic Customer Relations | 0 comments

I want to congratulate the Top 10 utilities using social media! These utilities were selected by their peers in the 2013 E Source Utility Social Media Survey as being leaders in social media. To get a better sense of why they deserve this recognition, check out their social media links below and read some comments from the survey.

  1. Dominion
  2. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E)
  3. Alabama Power/Southern Company
  4. Avista Utilities
  5. Southern California Edison (SCE)
  6. Duke Energy
  7. BC Hydro
  8. AEP
  9. SRP
  10. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. (BGE)

www.facebook.com/dominionvirginiapower
twitter.com/domvapower
www.facebook.com/dominioncareers
twitter.com/domnews
twitter.com/domeastohio

Survey respondents said this about Dominion’s social media efforts:

  • “Willingness to push the envelope and content that always strives to be relevant”
  • “A solid all-around performer”
  • “Great outage communications and on-site photos during major events”
  • ...

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