The city of Santa Monica, in conjunction with Southern California Gas Co. and Southern California Edison Co., has been running an energy conservation program for almost a year now. They believe it is unique in the United States.
12p,10,,1 Alternative Shelter It is a way of offering home energy audits with immediate installation of energy-conservation devices--all for free--that seems to be reaching as much as 10 times as high a percentage of people as other Residential Conservation Service Programs generally offered throughout the nation in response to federal mandate.
Ken Egel, the city's Energy Fitness Program manager, explained that Santa Monica is under contract to the two energy utilities to assume primary responsibility for the residential audit program, which is funded by the two utilities at a cost to them of about $1 million.
In most, and probably all other programs, the utility involved has fulfilled its federal requirement to offer energy audits by such means as advertising and publicity, including notices sent with customers' bills.
These have been getting a response from 3% to 5% of eligible residents and those, Egel said, have been mostly the more affluent, better-educated people. So Santa Monica decided to do it differently in two ways:
--The city adopted the door-to-door-solicitation approach, the technique that made the "Fuller Brush man" and the "Avon lady" famous and their companies rich.
--The door-to-door teams do more than inspect and recommend; they have the actual conservation devices with them and install as many as three types on the spot for those who want them. Free.
The devices they install include water-saving shower heads, water heater insulation jackets, hot water pipe insulation, faucet aerators and doorsweep weatherstripping. Team members, trained to perform the audits and install the equipment, are uniformed and carry photo identification cards, while their vans are distinctively marked as belonging to the energy program.
Besides that, every resident receives two advance notices in the mail explaining the program and giving the day and time the team will be on their street.
"Owners and renters of multifamily housing units have traditionally been among the most difficult-to-reach customers under most traditional audit programs," Egel said.
"Not only are we getting among the highest participation rates in the country, 33% to 35%, but for the first time, we are reaching a good sample of all residents--including the normally hard-to-reach senior citizens, low-income households and owners and renters of multifamily housing.
"Many multifamily housing owners love the program because it may help lower their operating expenses without costing them any money for the devices or installation," he said, adding that, to date, 79% of program participants--more than 8,950--have been apartment owners or renters. Surprising as it may be, he said, that percentage parallels the actual housing percentage in the city.
Program May Grow
More than 8,650 energy-efficient shower heads have been installed in 7,150 residences and 3,439 water heater insulation jackets have been installed. More than 125 multifamily buildings' central water heaters have received energy-saving equipment; altogether, more than 27,250 energy-saving devices have been installed.
The program, approved by the state Energy and Public Utilities commissions and the federal Energy Department, is a pilot. If successful (and it seems to be), it could be introduced in other cities across the country.
Egel said the program expects to exceed its target goal; to date it has audited 11,337 Santa Monica residences and installed at least one conservation device in all but 2% of them. But he warned that the Santa Monica program has a contract expiration date of May 16. He urged anyone who has missed it--wasn't home when the team came by, for instance--to call the Santa Monica Department of General Services as soon as possible, ask for the Energy Fitness Program and arrange for a visit.
"We have had this program since May, 1984," Egel said, "and by mid-May of 1985 we expect to have offered it--that is, knocked on the door--to every eligible resident of Santa Monica."