By Ann Arney, an Energy Efficiency Specialist at CLASS 5 Energy in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.


I don’t need anyone to tell me to turn off the lights.

We do that already.

We can save energy on our own.

Energy plans are expensive.


We’ve heard it all – behavior based energy efficiency is still a growing field, and with limited information, it can be hard to understand just what it involves.  Many organizations want to be more energy efficient, but hiring expensive consultants or doing a lot of building modification just isn’t in the budget.


Behavior based energy efficiency plans focus on the people, not the equipment.  By looking at energy use as something you, and the people around you can control, your organization can start seeing savings almost immediately.


Here are our top four myths about behavior based energy plans – BUSTED!


I can’t afford an energy plan of any kind.

An energy project’s “simple payback,” or how many years it will take to pay for itself, has been a standard way to measure energy investments for years. Behavior-based energy efficiency plans provide some of the highest ROIs because the strategies for reducing energy use and costs are generally no- or low-cost.  Choices like turning off lights, resetting thermostats and changing IT computer settings are completely free ways to positively affect your bottom line.  And while you can identify these strategies on your own, the most successful behavior change programs rely on a sustainable process like the CLASS 5 Plan to ensure ongoing buy-in and participation. If your organization spends $100,000 per year on utility bills (gas, electric, water, oil), you can repay the a behavior plan like CLASS 5’s in one year by reducing energy use only 4%.  Don’t believe it?  Start with the temperature – for each 1° F that you adjust your thermostat; you can save 1% of your heating and cooling costs.


I don’t need a behavior plan if I am investing in new equipment.

New equipment is exactly why you do need a behavior plan! Your boilers and air conditioners can have the highest ENERGY STAR® ratings possible, but if the systems they support are not running properly, are not calibrated, or are left to run even when the spaces they serve are not occupied, you will never see those savings. Building operators need the right information – and the support – that comes with being part of an organization-wide effort. Remember, ENERGY STAR labels guarantee that your equipment can run efficiently; behavior plans ensure that they will.


Behavior-based energy efficiency plans don’t save that much energy.

Yes they do!  Energy is a controllable cost, and something that we use every day – no matter where we are, or what our organization looks like.  Behavior-based energy efficiency programs can reduce an organization’s energy use and cost by 5-10% in the first year – and the knowledge gained will position those savings to continue to build month after month, year after year.  Our own CLASS 5 Plan is proven to result in significant savings – but we are not the only ones.  One European study of universities resulted in a 9.5% change over 28 months.  Starbucks believes in behavior-based plans so much so that they are piloting it in 10 stores.  The State and Local Energy Efficiency Network has studied behavior and energy in residents, while the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy sector studied it in military housing.  If the entire country changed just a few of their energy-use habits, the United States could save more 5 billion dollars per year!


Behavior-based plans are mostly about posters and tip sheets.

While it’s true that effective communications is a critical component of behavior-based energy efficiency plans, that is only the beginning. According to a report by ACEEE, successful energy behavior programs share several common strategies, including 1) setting the tone with the strong support of upper management, 2) building a team with a project committee and peer champions on board, 3) utilizing communication tools to reach target audiences, and 4) engaging building occupants by means of social norms, feedback, benign peer pressure and competition, as well as performance-linked rewards.


Behavior-based energy efficiency is based in psychology and the social sciences.  It uses an organizational change management process that helps to make energy efficiency the social default within an organization. Once that occurs, the sky’s the limit when it comes to energy savings. Roughly 41% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2010 was used in buildings. Energy behavior programs, which can play a significant role in improving building energy efficiency, remain largely absent from many companies’ sustainability programs.


What are people waiting for?  The cumulative effects of what each of us do can either do more harm or do more good – which choice is your organization going to make?


Ann Arney is an Energy Efficiency Specialist at CLASS 5 Energy in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. CLASS 5 is a consulting and development firm which helps organizations save energy through behavioral programs and tools.  Click here for information, and to contact CLASS 5 Energy.



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