Homeowners' Decisions on Energy Efficient Renovations: Influences and Policy Misconceptions

November 13, 2007 - 12:00pm
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Utilities and policymakers provide financial incentives and energy or cost-related information to encourage homeowners to renovate energy efficiently. But informed cost minimization does not realistically represent individual decision behavior. The empirical research presented here explores homeowners' decisions to renovate (or not) through a comparative analysis of three cross-sectional surveys at different stages of the renovation decision process. The results suggest incentive and information-based policies are misconceived. Firstly, there is a timing mismatch between considerations of affordability and awareness of incentives. To minimize the resulting risk of free ridership, incentives could be targeted not at homeowners but at the renovation product supply chain. Secondly, policymakers and homeowners alike cite reduced energy costs and increased market value as important motivations for renovating. But these financial benefits are more likely used as retrospective justification for spending money. Thirdly, renovations are most commonly motivated by personal desires, aesthetics and social norms. These are basically irrelevant for energy efficiency, but highly applicable to visible interior and exterior amenities like kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor spaces. Energy efficiency measures should be cross-sold as part of broader amenity-driven renovations.

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