meeting. In a three-week follow-up after the experiment, the savings were 19 percent. These savings amounted to 26 and 63 percent, respectively, of the electricity used for air conditioning. This saving was accomplished with little or no change in indoor temperature and no change in residents’ comfort. When householders were given daily feedback on their rates of energy use, in addition to the videotape, their savings increased even further. In a parallel experiment with winter energy savings, the combination of videotapes and feedback produced a total savings of energy of more than 25 percent of the electricity used for heating.
These studies demonstrate that social and psychological factors can make a sizable difference in residential energy use even when both economic incentives and the physical properties of the building are held constant. Of course, energy use depends not only on the habits of building occupants, but on levels of investment in insulation, energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, and other practical devices. The evidence is that most of the remaining potential for energy savings in the residential sector requires such investments.3
Furthermore, the level of investment in energy efficiency can be increased substantially by changing social and psychological conditions—with very little reliance on special financial incentives or penalties. For example, Stern, Black, and Elworth (1981, 1982a) studied a program in the Northeast that offered homeowners a combined package of home energy audits, assistance with financing, contact with certified contractors, and inspection of energy conservation work done on the home. The program was financed in part by a surcharge on the work done under contract, so the program did not provide its services at the lowest available cost to consumers. Nevertheless, 2,000 households—about one-quarter of those who requested its free energy audits—went on to have the recommended work done by the program. These homeowners made investments that will save them almost four times as much energy as will be saved by the investments of homeowners who did not participate in the program. In fact, even participants who received free energy audits and declined to have work done through the program reported making investments that will save twice as much energy as the comparison group.4 The most frequently given reasons for signing contracts with the program were distinctly nonfinancial: “I trusted the work because it would be inspected” (98 percent); “I didn’t have to worry about finding a reliable contractor” (96 percent); “The staff was very professional and trustworthy” (89 percent); “It was convenient to have them do the recommended work” (62 percent). In short, the program’s qualitative advantages, rather than simply the net financial benefit to be expected from energy efficiency, made a large difference in household behavior and in energy savings.
Each of these studies demonstrates, in a different way, that nontechnical and noneconomic factors can have a major impact on energy use. Taken