Energy efficiency and a cold marriage

Nov. 30, 2012
By Elisa Wood November 29, 2012 We know energy efficiency can save the world, but can it save a marriage? Leave it to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to take on that question. The agency is known for its vanguard energy research.  But it is one thing to produce papers on […]
By Elisa Wood
November 29, 2012

We know energy efficiency can save the world, but can it save a marriage?

Leave it to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to take on that question. The agency is known for its vanguard energy research.  But it is one thing to produce papers on topics like ‘Air Bypass in Vertical Stack Water Source Heat Pumps’ and another to delve into what a cold room can do to a new marriage.

That’s  the premise behind Irreconcilable Temperatures,  a five-part comedy/ad produced by NYSERDA.

I know what you’re thinking. An energy agency and humor? No, not happening.

It was with deep skepticism that I clicked on the first ‘webisode’. I’ve seen energy folks try for comedy before and fail miserably.  But these short sketches had me chuckling – while learning about on-bill financing. A miracle.

The show’s tagline is “Save your love life! Plus hundreds of dollars – even more – on energy every year.”

Here’s the story line. Newlywed Russell is crazy frugal. After he and Wendy get their first utility bill, he keeps turning down the thermostat. Wendy is freezing, Russell is oblivious.

Finally she sits Russell down and says,  “We need professional help.”

Russell is bewildered. “Why?” he asks.  You can see his breath.

Of course, she’s not talking about marriage counseling, but a free home energy performance audit through NYSERDA. He’s hesitant. “Russell, is our marriage worth… free?” she asks.

Supporting characters enter. A triathlete neighbor, who drinks soy lattes with whey protein, thinks energy efficiency begins with installation of an expensive new heating system. She brags that her new furnace “has a self-calibrating variable speed inducer.”

“How nice for you not to have to do all that calibrating by hand,” Wendy comments.

Two assessors certified by the Building Performance Institute come to the rescue, one a straight man who often relieves Wendy and Russell’s confusion. For example, the couple thought that to pay for the home improvements they would have to sell Russell’s  presidential sock collection on e-bay.

The sketches are a clever way to educate the public about the Home Performance with Energy Star Program. The energy industry tends to trade in arcane information and even make arcane that which should be straight forward. The industry’s penchant for  staying within its bubble was okay when consumers were passive receivers of utility services. Now, however, the new world of smart grid requires that consumers take action and manage their energy use. Irreconcilable Temperatures isn’t exactly The Daily Show. In fact, it’s not even Saturday Night Live on an off week. But for a public service-type series,  it is clever. High quality promotions like this are a big step toward making the world of energy accessible.

“Humor can be a powerful educational tool. This campaign seeks to capitalize on humor in a way that demonstrates to homeowners the many very real and practical benefits of investing in energy efficiency in their homes,” said Francis  Murray, NYSERDA President and CEO. “We want all New Yorkers to know about the wide range of programs available – from direct incentives to free or low-cost assessments and financing – that can increase the comfort, safety and energy efficiency of their homes.”

The Irreconcilable Temperatures website also includes stories about homeowners across New York who have saved money through energy efficiency,  steps to get started, and information on incentives and financing.

Watch the webisodes here: www.nyserda.ny.gov/energy-stars.

Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work can be found RealEnergyWriters.com.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

Facebook:  Microgrids

Exploring the Potential of Community Microgrids Through Three Innovative Case Studies

April 8, 2024
Community microgrids represent a burgeoning solution to meet the energy needs of localized areas and regions. These microgrids are clusters of interconnected energy resources,...

Get the full report

Energy Modeling: An Essential Step in Microgrid Projects

Learn how energy modeling can be used to determine the best energy mix for your microgrid, as well as determine how big it needs to be to achieve your project goals.