Evaluation of the Awareness and Effectiveness of the Mass Save Program

Sponsor: Town of Nantucket Energy Office
Sponsor Liaison: Lauren Sinatra, Nantucket Energy Office
Student Team: Michael Andres, Courtney Carroll, Ari Hopkinson
Abstract: The Mass Save Home Energy Assessment program was designed to promote energy conservation by Massachusetts’s residents. The goal of the project was to analyze the current implementation of the program on Nantucket and identify how it could better meet the island’s distinctive needs. Based on interviews and surveys we found high levels of satisfaction among program participants and relatively high levels of awareness about the program among the general population. Nevertheless, we identified key areas that could be improved and made recommendations accordingly to the Nantucket Energy Office, Conservation Services Group and Mass Save to develop the marketing and implementation of the program in the future.
Link: NEO_Final_Report_

Executive Summary

The Mass Save program is a statewide initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’s gas and electric utilities (including National Grid). The program offers no-­‐cost home energy assessments (HEAs) to residents that provide recommendations and equipment to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy usage at home. The program has been providing assessments to homeowners and renters on the mainland for over twenty years and just recently started providing them to Nantucket residents on a consistent basis. Nantucket poses a unique challenge for energy auditors given the expense and logistical issues of travelling to and from the island. The Town of Nantucket Energy Office (NEO), National Grid, and Conservation Services Group (CSG) came together and developed a system that would allow for HEAs to be performed on the island more efficiently by scheduling them together in quarterly audit weeks. Two to three auditors travel to the island and assess around 50-­‐60 homes during each of these specified weeks. The first audit week was held in January 2012, the second in April 2012, and the most recent in November 2012. Approximately 175 homes have now been assessed and the NEO thought it an opportune time to take stock of the program. Accordingly, the goal of our project was to evaluate the effectiveness of the program, assess its impact on the island and to provide recommendations on how it can be improved.

To achieve this goal, our group established a set of four objectives. The project team has: 1) Analyzed past energy conservation programs and energy conservation techniques; 2) Evaluated the implementation of the Mass Save Program on Nantucket; 3) Determine the current marketing, outreach efforts and public awareness of the program; and, 4) Recommended improvements to the Mass Save Program as it is implemented on Nantucket.

Objective 1 entailed an in-­‐depth analysis of the literature on past energy efficiency programs and energy conservation methods, supplemented by interviews with key individuals involved with the implementation and facilitation of the program on Nantucket. Data was collected for Objective 2 by surveying local residents who had participated in the Mass Save program regarding logistical iv arrangements, auditor characteristics, products and recommendations received, implementation of recommendations and overall satisfaction. Objective 3 was accomplished by developing a general population survey that measured public attitudes towards energy conservation and awareness of the program.


A major problem with scheduling HEAs on Nantucket is the cost and logistical problems associated with sending auditors to Nantucket from the mainland for audit weeks. Originally, the audit weeks were created so that CSG could optimize the time spent on the island and perform as many HEAs in a week as possible. However, the NEO and CSG are working together towards certifying local contractors with Mass Save to conduct HEAs and perform weatherization and insulation contract work for the program.

During our interview with representatives from CSG and National Grid, our team learned that after an assessment, CSG typically contacts homeowners by mail to follow-­‐up and obtain feedback on their experience. Auditors on the mainland will sometimes follow up with homeowners to answer questions or discuss work. However, these follow-­‐ups have faltered on Nantucket.

To assess the current implementation of HEAs, our team interviewed 39 Nantucket residents who had assessments about their experience and satisfaction with the program. Generally, respondents were very satisfied with the program and felt the assessment was worthwhile, although, some participants expressed concerns about the performance of the energy efficient products installed and some even removed the compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) after their assessment. Overall, participants found that their auditor was “extremely” thorough, engaging and knowledgeable and consistently on-­‐time. Regarding program improvements, residents indicated that they would like to see a greater variety of products, more information provided during an assessment and more time allotted for each assessment.

Our team surveyed 97 residents from the general population to determine public awareness of the Mass Save program on Nantucket. We found that approximately half of respondents had heard of a no-­‐cost home energy assessment v program. Most participants had heard of the assessment program through word of mouth, newspaper advertisements and the Internet. Saving money and saving energy were the most popular motivators for making energy efficiency improvements, a statistic that can be used by the NEO in future marketing materials. Overall, our research and analysis have uncovered opportunities for refinement to improve the public awareness, implementation and effectiveness of the Mass Save program.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Through our analysis of the survey data and interviews with key stakeholders we would like to make the following recommendations to the NEO, CSG and National Grid. The recommendations are ordered in terms of importance for implementation. It is up to these three organizations to determine how each recommendation will be interpreted and implemented.

The process of sending auditors out to the island creates a bottleneck that limits when residents can sign up, extends response times, and restricts how many audits can be performed.

Recommendation 1: Develop a collaborative pilot model that would allow one or more local contractors to conduct HEAs year-­‐round on behalf of CSG.

Many homeowners were dissatisfied with some of the products they received during their audit, some said the lights were too dim or took too long to warm up and so they replaced them with their old incandescent ones. Some participants received thermostats and only a small fraction of them were installed. Out of the ones installed, participants were not properly informed on how to program them. When they weren’t installed, participants were given the thermostat to install themselves and in most cases, the participant forgot and the thermostat was never installed.

Recommendation 2: Auditors should focus specifically on providing clear information about product performance prior to installation and clear instructions about the operation of products, especially thermostats.

The HEA sign up process was very easy for most participants, however expectations and levels of preparedness varied greatly. When homeowners call to vi sign up for an HEA they are informed that the audit will take about two hours, given a brief explanation of the audit procedure and are told they should provide past electricity bills to the auditor. Variations in expectations suggest that participants need more information in advance.

Recommendation 3: Inform program participants in advance about what is needed from them for the assessment and clearly explain the process of the audit, program deliverables, and follow up activities.

Follow­‐up is a crucial step in encouraging participants to implement energy efficiency changes in their home. Homeowners often had questions they did not think of during their audit and are unsure of whom to ask once the auditor leaves. Follow up procedure that is in use on the mainland has yet to be implemented on the island and currently there is no follow up for participants on Nantucket. Research indicates that follow up is crucial to ensure effective implementation of conservation measures.

Recommendation 4: Create a follow-­‐up system geared to anticipate and answer questions program participants have following the assessment.

Nearly half of all the HEA participants we surveyed had heard of the program through word of mouth. All of the participants indicate they would recommend the program to a friend or family member and 75% already had. Providing participants with information to pass on to friends and neighbors would facilitate awareness and participation.

Recommendation 5: Auditors should leave Mass Save brochures with program participants after an assessment to give to their family and friends.

Although word of mouth may be the most effective form of outreach, many other avenues that are typically used to promote community events may help increase awareness of the Mass Save program.

Recommendation 6: Utilize the Internet and newspaper advertisements more to reach a greater number of residents.

Our general population survey revealed that of the participants who had heard of an HEA, only 28% of them could identify incentives offered by the program (such as CFLs and thermostats). Respondents identified saving money and energy as vii the two factors most likely to motivate them to make energy saving changes to their home.

Recommendation 7: Focus on advertising the incentives offered by the program that will easily save money and energy for homeowners.

Only 44% of the HEA participants and 37% of the general population survey participants knew of the surcharge in their bill that helps pay for energy efficiency programs like the Mass Save one. Many were surprised by this news. Making this fact better known may motivate more homeowners to take advantage of the service for which they are already paying.

Recommendation 8: Include more information in bills and advertisements about the surcharge that all customers are currently paying.

Evidently, the Mass Save Home Energy Assessment program has been well received by participants and has relatively high levels of public awareness already. Our recommendations offer ways to increase awareness, broaden participation, and strengthen program implementation for the future.