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Running An Energy Efficiency Company During COVID: Industry Perspectives

Everyone knows COVID-19 has interrupted the majority of businesses. While solar and other renewable generation companies can continue relatively smoothly (relatively) in this new era, energy efficiency, specifically in the residential space, is a very disrupted industry.

Everyone knows COVID-19 has interrupted the majority of businesses. While solar and other renewable generation companies can continue relatively smoothly (relatively) in this new era, energy efficiency, specifically in the residential space, is a very disrupted industry.

Our company has been serving this space for 6 years, having performed direct installation and consultation services for more than 13,000 homes and small businesses across Hawaii during that time. COVID effectively ground our operations to a halt in March. In this post, I’ll discuss how we made a comeback and what the arena of residential energy efficiency looks like for us now.

Protocols

Bonnie Bio gloves are biodegradable and last through our in-home services.

Going into someone’s home potentially exposes both them and our employees to infection, so protocols to minimize risk were implemented and standardized before we started back up. PPE includes face shields, masks, gloves, and boot covers. Being a company doing business to save the world, we felt very strongly that we just didn’t want to use single-use plastic for our PPE. Due to our contracts with various property management companies, we are required to dispose of gloves and boot covers between each home we service. After some thorough research and some serious false starts (including one biodegradable glove that ripped immediately upon pulling it on), we found BonnieBio gloves, which work great and are biodegradable.

In addition to the PPE, we also survey each customer ahead of time to assess whether or not there is any reason for risk in the job — asking basic questions of whether people have traveled, whether anyone in the house has had symptoms, etc. In addition, we ask questions around whether anyone is over 65 years of age, and if they any one is immunocompromised, and if so, we have a mitigation plan.

Business shift

During the peak of COVID shutdowns during the summer, we spent some time thinking through the future of home energy efficiency auditing and services. Our answer was to develop a home efficiency self-audit, allowing people to assess many things in their own home. The self-audit teaches people about energy use, how watts turn into dollars and cents on their electric bill, and how watts turns into carbon pollution.

We also offer a virtual audit through HomeEfficiency.com, which other contractors may be interested in as well.

Rocking the Tesla home efficiency delivery vehicle with my colleague, servicing a small apartment building. Yes, it’s sweaty work, but that’s actually rain on my shirt. 🙂

Status

We’re back to work, doing the best we can. Given the state of things with regard to climate change, we believe our work is more important than ever. Each job, each product we install makes a small, but meaningful and permanent change in energy consumption and money spent. Educating people in their own homes about their own energy use profile helps create lifetime savings and an educated populace about the dangers of climate change. While working with all this PPE and all these protocols is more difficult than it was before, it’s worth it.

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Written By

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur hellbent on making the world a better place for all its residents. After starting and selling two mission driven companies, Scott started a third and lost his shirt. After that, he bought a new shirt at Goodwill and started this media company and once it was making enough, he was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has, by the end of 2020, performed efficiency retrofits on more than 13,000 homes and small businesses, saving customers more than $3.3 million a year on their utilities. Previously, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and Green Living Ideas.

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