The EcoSave Program Engages Citizens in the City of Nelson
The City of Nelson encourages residents to make their homes more energy-efficient through the EcoSave Program. Delivered by the municipal electric utility, Nelson Hydro, the program offers support throughout the energy efficiency upgrading process and simplifies access to energy evaluations, rebates, and low-interest financing.
EcoSave launched in 2012 and has had over 1,000 residents participate in the program. However, with a population of over 10,000 there is still more work to do. As the Community Energy Program Manager with Nelson Hydro, I’m always looking for unique marketing ideas to raise awareness about our program and the importance of reducing energy use and carbon emissions through home upgrades. When I learned about MyHEAT and infrared roof top heat mapping, I knew it would spark the curiosity of our residents, especially given the personalized nature. We worked with MyHEAT to conduct a flyover of the Nelson area in 2017, and infrared heat loss maps of residential rooftops with individual heat loss scores were created.
The Great Escape: Does Heat Escape from your Home?
MyHEAT’s heat loss map launched to the public in the spring of 2018 through a one-year campaign we named, The Great Escape – Does heat escape from your home? It started with an information session, and then a couple of months later a postcard was mailed out to all residents followed by the final push of a bill stuffer that accompanied the electric bill. During the year there were also a few testimonial videos made of participants who had completed their energy evaluations and upgrades using the same Great Escape campaign look and feel. These were used as sponsored Facebook ads and City of Nelson Facebook posts to generate constant and consistent awareness.
Previous marketing of EcoSave included light bulb exchanges, film nights, giveaway campaigns, and of course the traditional newsprint and radio ads to target homeowners to make changes – but I would say that the launch of the Great Escape and the MyHEAT platform was what really generated a buzz about the program among the community. My prediction was that when you present something that is unique and personal that people are curious about, and when we look at the data to see how many unique users the campaign attracted it proves that is a great way to reach an audience. Since the launch of the public HEAT Map site for Nelson, 48% of available homes have been viewed on the platform, and this exceeded our target and resulted in increased program participation.
Our goal in working with MyHEAT was to present the HEAT Map as a way to engage with our community members so that they could learn about EcoSave and how they could benefit from participating. There are several accounts of how the map has connected residents to EcoSave and some reported using the map when determining potential homes to purchase.
Homeowner stories: There’s Something in the Attic
Every year we host a Green Home & Energy Show, it is a trade show-style event that showcases energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and renewable energy. Each year I hear a story of how the map was used and receive compliments on its innovation.
My favourite story was from a resident who located his home on the map, but found there to be some hot spots in places that didn’t make sense. He decided to investigate and had a further look into the attic. To his surprise, he found that rodents had disturbed the insulation by a significant enough amount that he needed to replace it in those specific areas. These spots actually correlated with what he saw on the map and while he didn’t participate in the program, it helped him find a problem and save energy. He mentioned that he told a lot of people to locate their home using the map.
Another story I want to share is about the competitive aspect the map generated. A couple came to me and signed up their relatively new home to have an energy evaluation because they were so puzzled by their heat loss score that the map was showing in comparison to other homes in the neighborhood that were older and had better scores. During the evaluation they discovered that even though the home was newer, it had some deficiencies that were identified and fortunately were considered as easy wins when it comes to saving energy.
Final Thoughts: Creating Buzz
The heat loss score doesn’t always mean that there will be major costly issues – it may just mean that it is worth having a closer look. That is exactly what we had hoped the map would do for our residents. We were never looking at it as a way to tell a complete story, more of a way to get someone interested in looking at their home from an energy perspective and a great way to market the easy-to-use program we have for saving energy and money.
While EcoSave hasn’t done any specific marketing for the Great Escape after the one-year campaign ended, and our attention shifted to expanding the program into the region, I continue to receive feedback from residents using the map and we continue to receive accolades on the innovative approach we take on saving energy. Finally, the power of word of mouth is highly valuable in our community, and MyHEAT helped EcoSave create that ‘buzz’.
Carmen Proctor, Community Energy Program Manager at Nelson Hydro, The City of Nelson