We test the energy consumption impact of providing visual information on residential home heat loss with a social norm that informs households of their heat loss rate relative to their neighbours, and compare this to the impact of a traditional home energy report. Heat loss is visualized using infrared images taken from above approximately 14,000 households using a thermal image sensor mounted on a small aircraft during the winter heating season. Infrared images showing roof heat loss were provided to approximately 4,500 randomly selected households in on-bill messaging. A similarly-sized randomly selected group received bill messaging with a ’traditional’ social norm comparing their consumption to similar homes. Both treatment groups were also shown a personalized estimate of the annual savings from reducing their consumption. Electricity and natural gas consumption are compared between treatment and control households during heating season over a one year period following the beginning of the intervention. After controlling for the estimated annual savings customers could achieve, natural gas consumption in the heat loss treatment falls by more than double the reduction in the traditional social norm, relative to control households. We conclude that home heat loss imaging and framing consumption in terms of heat loss hold promise in increasing the savings achieved from home energy reports.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Energy efficiency, nudge
Publisher Department of Economics
Series Carleton Economic Papers (CEP)
Papineau, M, & Rivers, Nicholas. (2019). Visualizing Energy Efficiency: A Randomized Controlled Intervention (No. CEP 19-10). Carleton Economic Papers (CEP). Department of Economics.