A federal court recently ordered this insulation marketer to pay a fine of $350,000 for making false claims about the insulation capabilities of the products he was selling. This is apparently the largest civil penalty ever awarded in a residential insulation case, although there have been other instances in the past where insulation marketers have had to pay up.
The FTC states:
Edward Sumpolec, doing business as Thermalkool, Thermalcool, and Energy Conservation Specialists, violated the FTC Act and the agency’s R-value Rule in selling liquid coating and foil radiant barrier products. Sumpolec’s advertising included false claims such as “R-100 paint,” “This . . . reflective coating will reduce wall and roof temperatures by 50-95 degrees . . .” and “Saves 40 to 60% on your energy bills.”
Those of us in the industry can certainly appreciate the absurdity of R-100 paint. We know it's snake oil, and a scam. But most homeowners, having no background in building science or physics, don't have the knowledge to see through such claims. They get scammed, and then become wary of any future claims about energy efficiency, not realizing the difference between this type of snake oil and the real, science-based home performance work that does lead to energy savings.
We see two takeaways here:
1) It's our duty to educate homeowners about energy efficiency, so people don't fall for this kind of stuff.
The bummer about this case is that people paid Mr. Sumpolec for his services. Clearly, they didn't see the results they were expecting, and consequently many of them are likely to be skeptical toward claims about energy savings in the future. If they had even a basic understanding about the basics of home energy efficiency (building envelope, efficient and properly sized mechanical systems, air-tight and well-designed ductwork, proper ventilation), they'd know that no paint has an insulation value of R-100. If good, honest companies make an effort to market their services in an honest way by spreading the word about building science basics (through blogging, speaking engagements, social media, and whatever other means they can), homeowners will be more likely to buy the services of those honest companies and less likely to fall for scams.
2) Truthful, honest marketing pays off more in the long run than exaggerated, untruthful claims.
The good thing about the home performance offering is that most of the companies in our space do good work that holds a real benefit for building owners. For a relatively low cost, homeowners and businesses can improve the comfort of their buildings, while saving money on energy bills, improving indoor air quality and building durability. This offering doesn't really need to be muddied up with unrealistic claims and exaggerations. Doing quality work and speaking truthfully about it is the best way to achieve long term success.
Thoughts? We'd love to hear them in the comments.