personal influences are significant determinants of energy consumption.2 It has become a commonplace observation, for example, that different families of the same size occupying identical residences can vary in their energy use by a factor of two or more (Lundstrom, 1980; Sonderegger, 1978). Thus, the behavior of building occupants is often a major factor in the building’s energy consumption. Even more compelling is the fact, demonstrated in numerous careful studies, that energy-using behavior can be altered greatly while technological and economic factors remain constant. We describe here some examples related to residential energy use.
Michael Pallak and his colleagues (Pallak, Cook, and Sullivan, 1980) showed that, all other things being equal, getting people to pay attention to their energy use led them to reduce consumption. They asked seventeen Iowa homeowners to participate in a study aimed at determining whether personal efforts could make much difference in saving energy. The researcher asked the homeowners to keep an “energy log” by noting their appliance use twice a day and reading their electric meters weekly. At the end of a month, these homeowners were using 13 percent less electricity than a group of sixteen control households that had agreed to participate but had not been asked to keep an energy log. The experiment officially ended at that point, but among the experimental households, the energy savings continued for almost a full year.
More aggressive efforts to influence energy use make a bigger difference. Richard Winett and his colleagues (Winett, Hatcher, Fort, Leckliter, Love, Riley, and Fishback, 1982) combined knowledge of behavioral psychology and communication techniques into a carefully constructed package to teach and motivate householders to cut energy use in their all-electric apartments and townhouses without spending money on equipment and with minimal loss in comfort. Their experimental program featured twenty-minute videotape programs that showed a young couple acting as a model by taking energy-saving actions in their home. The videotape on summer energy savings, for example, demonstrated the proper use of fans and natural ventilation in the evening; ways to shift the time or place of activities such as cooking and eating to decrease the need for air conditioning; dressing in lightweight clothing; and so forth. The script was carefully constructed to present energy efficiency as a positive action rather than emphasizing conservation. Participants in the study all attended a fortyfive-minute meeting explaining the project at which they were given instructions in the proper use of window fans, information on the exact insulating value of different items of clothing, and information on how to use a hygrothermograph installed in their homes to monitor temperature and humidity. In addition, some of the participants were given daily feedback for thirty days on the amount of energy they were using.
The group that saw the videotape cut total electricity consumption by 10 percent in comparison with a control group that only attended the