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Energy Use: The Human Dimension
holds that request energy audits are generally more educated, have higher incomes, and are more interested in energy issues than the general public (e.g., Hirst et al., 1981). This suggests that the information is going to people who are likely to be better informed in the first place. It also means that the poor and less educated, who have a strong need for information and who tend to live in energy-inefficient homes, are not reached by these information programs. Hirst and his colleagues (1981) identified this as the most obvious shortcoming among the twenty-seven utility-run programs they studied.
Furthermore, those who get the detailed information from energy audits do not necessarily act on it. One review (Rosenberg, 1980) concluded that only 20 to 30 percent of households followed their participation in programs that combined energy audits and low-interest financing by taking the recommended action. And another review (Hirst et al., 1981) concluded that the level of energy-saving activity among participants in audit programs represents only a modest increase over the level of action by nonparticipants. Thus, energy audit programs have often fallen short on two counts: reaching their clienteles, and converting audits into action.
Reaching the Clientele
The evidence suggests that householders respond to audit programs partly as a function of the method used to publicize the programs. Rosenberg (1980) reports participation rates of 1 to 3 percent when publicity is by enclosures with utility bills; 3 to 6 percent with direct mail: 5 to 7 percent with a combination of direct mail and media advertising; and higher participation when unpaid media news coverage is made available. Stern, Black, and Elworth (1981) have pointed out that such publicity techniques are probably most effective with middle-class homeowners, while for a low-income clientele, word-of-mouth campaigns relying on community groups, tenants’ associations, church groups, and so forth might be more effective. They suggest that large organizations sponsoring audit programs may be more effective in getting attention if they join forces with local groups that have personal contacts with the intended clientele.
Aggressively pursued information programs can be effective with low-income groups when the programs emphasize energy-saving techniques appropriate to their clients. One study (Winett, Love, and Kidd, 1982) tested a program in which energy experts visited residents of centrally airconditioned low-income housing units in Virginia and demonstrated methods for minimizing use of electricity for water heating and cooling. The program lent each participating household a window fan and provided instruction on where and when to use it, on the use of natural ventilation for cooling, and on energy-efficient operation of the water heater. Savings