Would you ask your pest control guy for help making your house more energy efficient? How about your lawn care company?

Apparently it happens with homeowners all the time. As I write this, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it – in a thousand years, I wouldn’t expect the person I count on to keep my home bug-free to know anything about insulation and air sealing. But it began to make sense as I listened to Tom Schirber with the University of Minnesota tell the story during a panel discussion I participated in recently at the Better Buildings, Better Business conference.

Tom, like many of us, has been trying to crack the nut on how to actually motivate homeowners to upgrade the efficiency of their homes – and do it in a way that’s grounded in building science. While simply talking with people in his own circle, he began to hear anecdotes from friends in the home services industry – pest control, lawn care, home cleaning, etc. – about their workers being asked if they could help with a home improvement issue. What dawned on Tom – and I think it’s a fantastic insight – is this:

  • Folks in the home services business have established a level of trust (or at least familiarity) with homeowners, because they show up regularly and do a good job.
  • They’re around at the “point of pain.” Tom makes an excellent point that people truly only want to make efficiency improvements when they’re in pain – an ice dam has developed on the edge of the roof, the HVAC system is on the fritz, mold has appeared somewhere in the house, a room has become uncomfortable. Because the pest control guy or lawn care guy is around regularly, he gets asked if he knows how to fix this stuff. 
  • Homeowners don’t know who else to ask. They’ve never interacted with an insulation guy or a home performance specialist. They may not even know there is such a thing as a “home performance specialist,” so they truly have no idea who to call for help. It’s simply easier to ask the person who’s right there.

You’ve heard me expound often about the real drivers and barriers for energy efficiency and sustainability. For years in our Eco Pulse research we’ve asked, “If you had to choose between your comfort, your convenience or the environment, which would you choose?” Though we’ve seen movement recently towards the environment, when you look at the trend you’ll see that we are creatures of comfort and convenience. One of the reasons we don’t buy greener products or make efficient upgrades to our homes is that it’s inconvenient. And the greater the perceived inconvenience, the greater the resistance to doing it.

So it makes perfect sense that at the time of pain – when the emergency now outweighs the convenience factor – people will ask the folks right in front of them. And Tom’s not the only one who’s figured this out. His forthcoming report notes that “TruGreen, a national lawn care company, is now offering insulation services in select markets, and Terminix, the largest pest control company, offers attic insulation evaluation and installation of attic insulation.”

The lesson here? If you’re trying to sell any kind of green or efficient home improvement to homeowners, consider partnering with companies in the home services industry. They have the trust, an established marketing and sales channel, and they’re in the right place at the right time. Selling efficient lighting or insulation through a bug guy may seem unlikely, but it looks like it’ll work. Like gangbusters.