Rebates: The Hidden Jewels

October is Energy Awareness Month, which is leading to all sorts of interesting news stories. One of the most quoted is a recent survey by Harris Interactive, reporting that 61% of Americans do not know about utility rebates. Clearly, they have not seen the rebate center at WattzOn. And the survey found (yet again!) that information does not always lead to action: one-fourth of consumers who knew there was a rebate available did not use it.

But as one reporter noted, consumers don’t buy the best cell phone plan either. They are often unaware of the incentives available, and they are unclear about the benefits of change. (To everyone working in the field of energy efficiency, this must sound very familiar!)

As the survey results show, it’s clear that consumers need help in navigating confusing choices surrounding energy savings. It is up to companies like WattzOn to present information in a clear and actionable way.

Here’s an example: The mighty city of Hercules, California (population 19,500) offers a very generous rebate for PV solar systems: $2.42 per watt, up to a maximum of $10,000. For a typical system (3 kw), this means a $7,500 rebate is available, bringing the net system cost down to $8,000. In nearby Pinole, where there is no city rebate, the net cost of a PV system is over $15,000.

Telling a consumer these numbers is mind-numbing. But showing consumers these numbers, in a personalized estimate of net solar costs, can tip decisions. “Oh, it only costs that much?!?” is a statement that leads to change. Check out our personalized solar calculator to see our point.

So, while the Harris poll is sobering—years of utility marketing dollars have not had much impact—it is also a very good illustration of a real problem. In many industries, consumers need to have the data pulled together to answer a single question—“What does it mean to me?” Why should the business of energy savings be any different?


WattzOn Labs is always innovating ways to engage people to save water and energy. It showcases the WattzOn products under the WattzOn Labs private-label. We don’t market these products, but use this small-scale direct-to-consumer experience to constantly evolve and learn. Then we apply the findings to the rich, private-label products used by all our customers at WattzOn.