even though these products are used differently by different people, manufacture is standardized. The problem of diversity is least serious when neither the technology nor user behavior varies greatly, as with refrigerators and freezers.
Invisibility of Energy. Because most people have little experience with the details of the operation of furnaces, water heaters, automobile engines, and so forth, they may not pay attention to information on how to improve their operation or find more efficient equipment, or they may find such technical information incomprehensible. Invisibility is also a problem because many of the remedies recommended by information programs are themselves invisible, so it is difficult for an energy user to know whether or not the remedy has been effective.
Understandable Skepticism About Energy Information. A government agency may be convinced that its information is accurate and reliable and that its estimates of savings are reasonable, but energy users have good reasons to be skeptical. This problem is particularly difficult because a solution seems to require information providers to recognize that no matter how carefully and scientifically they gather information, people will need to consult other sources before they can develop trust.
Informational programs can address these problems. We first discuss two topics that have been addressed by much careful research: the problems of attracting the attention of energy users and of making energy savings visible. Then we turn to home energy audit programs to show how this knowledge can be used.
Because information is effective only if it attracts attention, telling people how to save energy can be seen as an advertising problem. But there are important differences between offering energy information and selling soap or toothpaste. The concept of “social marketing” (Kotler and Zaltman, 1971) is useful for pointing out these differences.
Social marketing has been defined as the attempt “to increase the acceptability of a social idea or practice in a target group(s)” (Kotler, 1975). Generally, these ideas or practices have benefits beyond the individual who adopts them. Thus, offering information on energy efficiency may be a form of social marketing. To consider it as such, however, is to question the idea of passive distribution of information that underlies much of the U.S. government’s effort to offer energy information. “Marketing” implies a much more active process. This points to a major difference between