Home Visits

What is this Tool?

Home visits involve meeting face to face with people at their homes. The visits usually last from ten minutes to two hours, depending on what needs to be covered, and can be conducted by volunteers, contractors or staff.

Why Would You Use It?

  • Because visits to people's homes are very direct - so you can identify problems, deal with them immediately, and customize your instructions or persuasive messages for the particular circumstances and concerns of the householder.

When Would You Use It?

Use home visits when you want to:

  • get conservation devices installed - many programs that provided these devices without installation found that the products were never used or were installed improperly
  • ensure that devices previously given to residents have been installed correctly and to make any necessary adjustments
  • personally help people overcome key barriers that might otherwise prevent them from taking action
  • provide assistance tailored to each resident's particular circumstances
  • sample a product and how it is used, or personally demonstrate how to do an activity - this can increase the likelihood that your recommendations are adopted
  • obtain the resident's agreement to carry out an activity

The main example used is ReCAP, a home visit service initiated in 1993 as part of Ontario's Green Communities initiative.

How Would You Use It?

1. Train the people doing the visits by providing them with:
  • social marketing information and skills
  • subject information
  • product and action information
  • technical skills


ReCAP's Home Advisors received the standard 10-day training course that the Ontario Government provided to each new Green Community. They devoted 1 1/2 days to learning and practising social marketing skills.

The Montreal Dietary Dispensarys counselors received intensive training followed by months of supervision.

Tip: Training materials are available from the Green Communities Association (see the ReCAP case study).

Your Program

What training will you provide?
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change

2. Obtain an invitation or agreement to spend time with the resident.


Be Water Wise found it relatively straightforward to visit homes without advance notice and provide information. However, when they tried to sell water conservation kits through these visits they found that few homes were willing to buy - even though the kits were offered at a significant discount. Furthermore, residents who were asked to make a purchase were less likely to sign an agreement to participate in the program even though the agreement did not require making the purchase.

Earth-Works, The Toxic Challenge and We're Toxic Free all approached people at their homes without any advance notice. Quizzes and incentives were used to interest them in spending further time.

The Environment Network pilot tested its starter kits with 150 participants.

When Guelph 2000 introduced its free shade tree program, 35 percent of its home visits were booked by people who called specifically for that incentive. Another 10 percent of the visits were a result of telemarketing efforts and 30 percent came from word-of-mouth promotion.

Tip: If you are going to ask people to spend a significant amount of time or money, have them request the visits.

Tip: See Table 1 below.

Your Program

Which of the following apply to you?

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change your home visit usually takes less than 20 minutes
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change you will not be asking people to pay for anything
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change the majority of homes in your community would benefit from your visit

If you checked off all of the above, or if you are visiting a retirement or cottage community, you probably do not need to book your visits ahead of time.

Otherwise, you are probably better to ask that residents call ahead to book a visit. In this case, how might you make use of the following promotional options?

Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change the mass media
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change school programs
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change special events/displays
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change special incentive programs
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change telemarketing
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change tax and utility bill inserts
Login to Save Plans for Tools of Change word-of-mouth

3. Build the resident's motivation to take action. Provide financial incentives if appropriate.


When The Environment Network's home advisors found people who seemed particularly motivated by concerns about cleanliness and hygiene, they asked them to consider the link between their water supply and household hazardous wastes spilled down the drains and toilets in their homes.

ReCAP linked its recommendations to each householder's motivators. Advisors listened carefully to a householder's remarks, both during the initial interview and throughout the home visit, and identified clues that suggested where their interests lay. For example, if a householder expressed interest in gardening, or a well-maintained garden was noted, advisors would stress garden-related recommendations (e.g., using native plants, planting shade trees, composting).

To motivate clients to feed and care for their baby before birth, the Montreal Dietary Dispensary emphasized the idea of a fetus as an individual with real needs ones only the mother was in a position to provide. Women were taught that they were eating to feed their unborn babies, as well as themselves. A developing babys special needs for growth, the "building of a baby", was compared to the "building of a house" requiring the intake of nutrients as building blocks for the child.

Participants in Ashland's home energy audit program were offered cash grants covering up to 60% of the total installation costs for the measures identified in the audits, or up to 100% for low-income residents.

Your Program

For step-by-step instructions on how to do this, see the Tools Building Motivation Over Time and Financial Incentives and Disincentives.

4. Help the resident overcome any specific barriers that might prevent them from taking action.


ReCAP's Home Advisors installed a number of conservation devices free of charge -overcoming a number of potential barriers including lack of time, confidence, knowledge and money. Furthermore, when they encountered residents who were concerned about the up-front costs of a recommendation, they offered EnviroLoans at lower than average interest rates.

During the home visit, the Montreal Dietary Dispensary's counselors assessed each clients living conditions (e.g. food stocks, cooking facilities) and used this information to tailor a dietary intervention. To minimize resistance to making changes to ingrained eating habits, diets were designed to introduce as few changes as possible.

Water Efficient Durham gave homeowners rain gauges, reminder tags and educational literature.

Smart Trips Welcome delivered orders by bicycle so new residents could speak with a transportation expert face-to-face. A phone call to all participants was made approximately two weeks after delivery of the materials, giving participants the chance to ask questions and for program staff to provide support and encouragement.

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BC21 image
A staff person installs weather-stripping in the Okanagan First Nations Community Project (BC21 PowerSmart).

Your Program

For step-by-step instructions on overcoming barriers, see the Tool Overcoming Specific Barriers.

5. Ask the resident for an agreement to carry out the actions you are promoting.


Your Program

Please refer to the Tool Obtaining a Commitment.