Every few months, Susanne McDaniel is told that her home isn’t energy efficient.
The reminder is mailed to her, separately from her utility bill, by the Kansas City Power & Light Co. It shows her what efficient energy consumption would be, how much energy her neighbors consume and how much her home consumes. It also offers tips on how to save energy.
Which McDaniel thinks she’s already doing.
“I just kind of look at it and toss it in the recycle bin,” McDaniel said. “I know I’m doing the best that I can.”
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McDaniel, who lives in the Westwood Park neighborhood, is part of KCP&L’s Home Energy Report pilot program, which so far includes about a third of the company’s Missouri customers. According to the utility company’s website, the program compares a resident’s usage pattern to 100 neighbors who have homes of a similar size.
That has led some Kansas City residents such as McDaniel to take to Nextdoor, a private social media site geared toward neighborhood communication, to voice their concerns about the program. Some joked that the letters were a form of “energy shaming,” while others wrote that they were concerned the reports weren’t accurate or helpful.
But Brian File, senior manager of products and services with KCP&L, said that while there may be a vocal minority that doesn’t like the program, by and large he’s seen that customers are happy with the reports.
File said the company has found that people who get the letter are able to decrease their energy use. He said people typically only think about their energy consumption when they’re paying their utility bill and that the report program is successful because it reminds people about their energy use.
“This allows people to take action,” File said.
Customers can opt out of the program, but File said only 0.6 percent have chosen to do so.
“We think that’s really pretty good from an overall satisfaction perspective,” File said.
The program also encourages customers to consider installing a new thermostat offered by KCP&L to Missouri customers.
The energy-efficient thermostat is offered free of charge and can be controlled with a Wi-Fi connection. By agreeing to have the thermostat installed, customers allow KCP&L the ability to raise the temperature during peak demand times between June and September, according to the company’s website. These changes, called cycling events, generally happen fewer than four times a year and last no more than four hours, according to KCP&L.
According to KCP&L’s website, the thermostat can reduce a customer’s energy usage up to 20 percent.
The thermostats are available in Missouri because the program has been approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission, File said, but it isn’t offered in Kansas because it hasn’t been approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission. KCP&L hopes that Kansas will approve the program.
File said 175,000 Missouri customers receive home energy reports roughly every other month as part of the program. The program is not available Kansas customers. KCP&L is considering expanding the program in the next year, but is still unsure about how large the expansion will be.
For her part, McDaniel said she carefully monitors her energy consumption. She said the letters show few households in her neighborhood are energy efficient, so the letters can have a shaming effect on recipients.
“I think they’re a waste of paper and a waste of postage,” McDaniel said.
Cindy Tully, who lives in the 49/63 neighborhood, said she also was confused about the handful of notices from KCP&L over the last few months about her energy consumption.
She said the program can be unfair because of the differences in home sizes and the ages of appliances used in the homes.
“I’m not sure why they care,” Tully said. “It’s kind of offensive to a lot of people.”
Although Tully isn’t upset about the home energy reports, she said KCP&L’s decision to send out the notices is curious.
“I’m not sure what the purpose of this is,” Tully said. “I’m not sure who is benefiting here.”
Tully said her utility bill is never unreasonable. She lives in a smaller home, around a thousand square feet, and said even though she leaves her electronics plugged in throughout the day, in her eyes, her energy consumption is typical and reasonable.
Tully said she’s not sure what KCP&L expects her and other homeowners to do to save energy.
“We all know that we’re leaking energy,” Tully said. “That’s really a downer for a lot of people who are trying to do the best they can. “
File said customers who aren’t satisfied with their home energy report can go online and change their comparison criteria, including updating KCP&L about the square footage and age of their home.
“The more data the customer provides, the better we’re able to refine the report,” File said.