Okay, there are a couple of parts there. I'll start with the residential, but I have some observations on the small business side also.
On the residential side, I guess one of the first things you learn when you enter this kind of work on energy efficiency and, broadly, environmental action is that human beings don't make decisions logically all the time or even often. There are many things that make us act otherwise.
Our work is rooted in something called community-based social marketing. The idea is that together we're creating a new social norm and that sometimes social norms are the things holding us back. When we don't see anybody else doing something, it feels weird, and we feel out of place. So, even though it's logical to do something, there could be a number of barriers that prevent us from doing it.
When we look at home energy retrofits, we've identified maybe three top barriers. One is the cost, especially the upfront capital cost, even though you know you're going to be paying it back over time.
A second one is knowledge, knowing what to do. That's where the home energy evaluation is really key. Many people think that if they replace their windows, they're going to solve the problem. One of the things we can let them know is that a window has a very low R-value. You can increase the R-value by making it double-paned or triple-paned or by adding features, but for the money you're going to invest in replacing the windows on your home, you're going to get a very low energy-efficiency return compared with what you would get if you spent the same amount money on insulating your home. At REEP House, the value of the insulation was $16,000. We probably spent that much on replacing the windows. The insulation probably took us 75% of the way to our 86% reduction in energy. The windows are a very small part of that. For the same cost, there was a really different impact. That's where knowledge can help people. People feel ill-equipped to make those decisions.
A third factor is trust. That's where a third-party organization, a trusted non-profit like REEP, can help people make decisions and choose among different options. People are a little leery of contractors. They might have one product they're pushing forward. People don't know how to compare quotes. The home energy evaluation is designed to help with a lot of that. We saw an opportunity to go further in creating this concept of a retrofit coach. We're basing it on something we heard about in the Washington, D.C., area. Really, what's missing is the federal incentive on our side, because in Washington, D.C., the coach was a very successful thing that they were able to have while it was funded. They really saw the coach almost as an app, which sat on top of a number of different state, federal, and local incentives along with utility incentives. The coach was helping people to navigate, to apply for, to qualify for, and to understand all of those things as well as to understand the retrofit work they needed to do and the different options.
I hope that goes part of the way to answering why we don't do what might seem logical.
On the commercial side, I think especially for small and medium-sized businesses it's day-to-day survival. Running an environmental organization, I can relate. I feel that we're like a small business. It's hard to stick your neck up long enough to see if there's some other option. Often cool new things like porous concrete cost more or you don't know about them. We need help to make those new things cost-neutral and attractive to people.
The three dozen businesses I talked about, which are taking part in our RAIN program, are learning about things like permeable paving, porous concrete, rain gardens, etc. We're offering them a free on-site visit during which we will walk around the property with them to show them the opportunities they have to prevent flooding and to institute those kinds of things.
We're making it cost-neutral just to get the information.
I'll leave it there for now.