The  SEEED  Listening  Project:  An  Evaluation  Brief  
 

September  2013  
 

Lisa  Reyes  Mason,  Ph.D.  
The  University  of  Tennessee  College  of  Social  Work  
 
 

Introduction  

Initial  Findings  

 
The  Listening  Project.  Since  2010,  Socially  
Equal  Energy  Efficient  Development  (SEEED)  
has  conducted  a  Listening  Project  via  door-­‐
to-­‐door  interviews  in  parts  of  Knoxville’s  
Empowerment  Zone.  The  Listening  Project  
aims  to  assess  low-­‐  and  middle-­‐income  
residents’  interest  in  a  zero  down  payment,  
low-­‐interest  home  weatherization  loan  
program.  The  program  would  help  people  
lower  their  utility  bills  and  improve  the  
energy  efficiency  of  their  homes.  Also,  the  
program  would  provide  “green  collar”  job  
training  for  Knoxville  youth  from  
disadvantaged  or  low-­‐income  backgrounds.  
 
The  Listening  Project  asked  short  survey  
questions,  plus  open-­‐ended  questions  to  
gather  participant  experiences,  preferences,  
and  ideas  in  their  own  words.  
 
Evaluation  Scope.  This  brief  summarizes  
initial  findings  from  two  rounds  of  the  
Listening  Project.  Descriptive  statistics  for  
data  from  2010  (N=50)  and  2012  (N=28)  are  
presented.  
 
The  brief  focuses  on  participant  reports  of  
utility  bills  and  interests  in  a  weatherization  
loan  program.  Future  briefs  could  examine  
open-­‐ended  responses  about  utilities  and  
prior  weatherization  experiences  in  
additional  detail.  

 
Reported  Increase  in  Utility  Costs.  Almost  
all  participants  in  2010  (90%)  and  2012  
(84%)  report  that  their  utility  bills  cost  more  
or  much  more  than  they  did  in  the  previous  
few  years.  
 
Utility  costs  now  vs.  a  few  years  ago  are...  
 
2010  (N=49)  
 
60%  
50%  
40%  

55%  
35%  

30%  
20%  
10%  

4%  

6%  

The  
same  

Less  

0%  
Much  
more  

More  

Much  
less  

 

Much  
less  

 

 
2012  (N=25)  
 
60%  
50%  

48%  
36%  

40%  
30%  
20%  

12%  

10%  

4%  

0%  
Much  
more  

More  

The  
same  

Less  

Average  Monthly  Bills  Seem  High.  In  2012,  
participants  were  asked  the  average  cost  of  
their  monthly  utility  bill.  About  one-­‐third  
reported  a  monthly  bill  of  $300  to  $450,  
and  over  half  reported  from  $150  to  $299.  
 
Average  cost  of  monthly  utility  bill  is...  
 
2012  (N=27)  
 
60%  

Among  2010  participants,  top  responses  
were:  insulate  the  home  (44%),  install  or  
repair  windows  (28%),  install  or  repair  
doors  (22%),  and  use  air  sealing  (18%).  In  
2012,  top  responses  were:  insulate  the  
home  (21%),  install  or  repair  windows  
(21%),  use  air  sealing  (11%),  and  change,  
repair,  or  buy  ventilation  (11%).  Several  of  
these  ideas  are  in  line  with  what  a  
weatherization  loan  program  could  support.  
 
Much  Interest  in  Weatherization  Program.  
Interest  in  a  weatherization  loan  program  
seems  high.  About  90%  of  participants  in  
2010  and  74%  in  2012  said  they  would  
“definitely”  or  “probably”  take  advantage  of  
such  a  program.  
 
Likelihood  of  taking  advantage  of  a  
weatherization  loan  program...  
 
2010  (N=50)  
 

56%  

50%  
40%  

33%  

30%  
20%  

11%  

10%  
0%  
$300-­‐$450  

$150-­‐$299  

<$150  

 
 
Many  Ideas  for  Lowering  Utility  Bills.  When  
asked  if  there  was  anything  they  would  do  
to  lower  their  utility  bills—if  they  had  the  
money—participants  shared  a  variety  of  
their  own  ideas.  These  ideas  were  then  
coded  into  the  following  categories:    
 
Way  to  Lower  Utility  Bill    
if  Money  Available  

80%  

66%  

60%  
40%  

24%  

2010  
(N=50)  

2012  
(N=28)  

Insulate  home  

44%  

21%  

Use  air  sealing  

18%  

11%  

6%  

7%  

Install/repair  windows  

28%  

21%  

Install/repair  doors  

22%  

7%  

Put  in  efficient  light  bulbs  

2%  

4%  

 
2012  (N=27)  
 

Repair/buy  refrigerator  

4%  

0%  

80%  

Install  solar  panels  

20%  

4%    

7%    

             Ventilation  

4%  

11%  

             Air  conditioning  

2%  

7%  

12%  

4%  

2%  

0%  

10%  

4%  

             Appliances  
Buy  air  filters  
Weatherize,  in  general  

4%  

4%  

0%  

Change/repair/buy...    
             Heating  system  

2%  

60%  

 

59%  

40%  
20%  
0%  

15%  
0%  

7%  

19%  

 
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Similarly,  participants  were  asked  to  rate  
their  interest  in  a  weatherization  loan  
program  on  a  four-­‐point  scale  from  “not  
interested  at  all”  to  “very  interested”.  
Among  2010  participants  (N=47),  over  
three-­‐quarters  (77%)  chose  “very  
interested”.  About  80%  of  2012  participants  
(N=20)  did  so  as  well.  
 

In  future  briefs,  additional  data  from  the  
Listening  Project  could  be  examined.  For  
example,  open-­‐ended  data  were  also  
collected  on  participant  perceptions  of  why  
their  utility  bills  may  be  high,  along  with  
data  on  what  efforts  participants  have  
already  made  to  lower  their  bills.  

Acknowledgements  

Summary  

 
The  Listening  Project  was  implemented  by  
Stanley  Johnson,  Joshua  Outsey,  Jerome  
Johnson,  Alana  Hibbler,  and  Rick  Held.  The  
author  is  grateful  to  Brian  Conlon  of  the  
University  of  Tennessee  for  his  work  with  
data  coding  and  management.  
 

 
Initial  findings  suggest  that  Listening  Project  
participants  perceive  their  utility  bills  as  
higher  than  they  used  to  be.  When  asked  an  
open-­‐ended  question  about  how  to  lower  
their  bills,  participants  had  several  of  their  
own  ideas  and  preferences  to  share.  
Interest  in  a  weatherization  loan  program  
among  Listening  Project  participants  seems  
high.  The  program  would  have  potential  to  
provide  a  financing  mechanism  for  putting  
low-­‐  and  middle-­‐income  residents’  energy  
efficiency  ideas  into  action.  

Contact  Information  

 
Lisa  Reyes  Mason  can  be  reached  at  
lmason12@utk.edu.

 

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