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Energy Use: The Human Dimension
energy audit if some small actions can be taken on the spot. Thus, an energy auditor may show a householder how to install a flow limiter in a shower or how to weatherstrip a window, using materials provided by the audit program. To gain the effects of behavioral commitment, it is important to encourage people to do some of the work themselves. Weatherstripping may be especially effective because it can be used to combine hands-on experience, behavioral commitment, and, using smoke sticks or similar devices, a vivid before-and-after demonstration of effectiveness.
Even with small improvements like using weatherstripping material and flow-limiters, an energy audit should give an energy user a choice among actions to take. Allowing a choice increases commitment to the chosen action and also increases the householder’s sense of control over his or her situation. As we have noted, the sense of control has a great effect both on a person’s sense of well-being (e.g., Langer and Rodin, 1976) and on the willingness to accept suggestions from outside authorities (Brehm and Brehm, 1981).
Choice has also been an important factor in the adoption of energy-conserving measures, such as the automatic day-night thermostats studied at Princeton University (Becker, Seligman, and Darley, 1979) and the gasoline-saving device the U.S. Army tried and rejected (Thomas et al., 1975). Allowing choice, as with the override mechanism on the automatic thermostat, serves a purpose even if the available choice is never actually made. Choice makes information more acceptable and increases commitment. Involving people in the decision-making process and allowing them more control over their destinies can make an energy audit more effective at the time and encourage further efforts at savings in the future.
To summarize, then, to be effective an energy audit has to do much more than provide accurate, reliable, and useful information. The information must be organized to make the auditors credible sources, and the auditors should supplement their accurate information with vivid, personalized examples, hands-on demonstrations, and a choice of activities involving householders that will save energy on the spot. Most of these changes can be made in the audit process easily and inexpensively simply by training the auditors in communication skills.
Credibility and Program Design
Other problems of energy information, especially the credibility issue, call for efforts beyond training auditors. They require attention to the design of the program. Some of the most attractive features of RCS are its inspection and contractor-listing features—two design elements that build credibility. Still, distrust of the source of energy audits may make it very difficult for audits to be effective, even if they are well publicized, offer accurate information, and make highly sophisticated presentations. Doubt-