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Analysis of user behaviour in energy-efficient residential buildings

EnEff:Stadt - Forschung für die energieeffiziente Stadt

FCN researchers during the qualitative interview in Rintheim.

© RWTH Aachen, E.ON ERC, FCN

Settlement summary

Block, ensemble
Project status Projektstatus: Phase 3Realisation
Project themes

Project description

There are many reasons for deviating energy-consumption behaviour which does not match the (ideal) expectations, and can include both technical factors and aspects of human behaviour. An interdisciplinary research approach is needed to answer the question as to why the actual behaviour differs from expectations. In addition to a technical analysis of energy consumption behaviour, socio-economic and behavioural science studies are necessary to obtain comprehensive explanations.

Research goals

The objective of the research project is therefore to identify and study the determining factors behind the observed energy consumption behaviour of residents. For this purpose, multiple methodological approaches were used to reveal as broad a range of different explanation approaches of the energy consumption behaviour as possible and explore their application-specific explanatory power based on case studies. It is explicitly built on findings from EnEff:Stadt projects. For example, existing data sets from technical measurements and surveys are used as the basis for this project. The data available will be supplemented with a separate survey and a choice experiment.

Work programme

The project largely consists of three work packages which are closely linked both in terms of content and personnel. The first work package aims to measure the direct rebound effect based on alternative definitions from literature, and quantify it econometrically. The second work package empirically analyses latent (i.e. not directly observable) factors (e.g. personal attitudes) and socio-economic variables (e.g. income or age), which could influence the observable energy consumption behaviour in an energy-efficient residential building (e.g. ventilation behaviour, use or non-use of the automatic ventilation system, room temperature). Finally, a choice experiment will validate various hypotheses on the energy consumption behaviour and acceptance of innovative energy-saving or efficient energy use technologies in residential buildings. The behavioural science-based explanatory models used in work package 2 will be used to generate research hypotheses among others as part of the choice experiment, which are attributed to work package 3. Insights from work package 2 and work package 3 will also be used to interpret the level of the rebound effects found in work package 1.

Work package 1: Econometric estimate of the rebound effect in energy refurbished residential buildings and new buildings

In this work package, rebound effects are to be defined based on the available data and various definitions in the literature and, if possible, empirically estimated using econometric procedures. In particular, a review is required of the effects due to changes (temporary or permanent) in the individual consumer behaviour which lead to changes in energy consumption, and which are due to technical or other factors, or are not directly linked to the technical increase in efficiency.

Work package 2: The influence of socio-economic and social-psychological determining factors on energy consumption behaviour

In work package 2, socio-economic, social-psychological and socio-technical determining factors of energy consumption behaviour after an energy measure are analysed empirically (i.e. introduction of new building technologies as part of energy refurbishment or an energy-efficient new building). In this way, the influence of these determining factors on specific energy consumption behaviour, such as the use or non-use of a ventilation system, is to be studied and possible explanations for the deviation of the actual residential energy demand from the previously determined demand are to be revealed. To do so, the empirical analysis will be enhanced with established economic and social-psychological theories and explanatory models. This procedure is well suited for structuring and creating questionnaires, aimed at collecting data on the (not directly observable) variables underlying a specific human behaviour.

Work package 3: Evaluation of energy refurbishment and energy-efficient new buildings by their residents based on a choice experiment

In the planned choice experiment, the participants (residents and non-residents of EnEff:Stadt projects) must choose one of multiple energy refurbishment options. Each scenario is described by different attributes, such as cosiness, ventilation and heating comfort, energy savings and costs. A statistical analysis is performed of how much tenants would be willing to pay for individual measures (e.g. as a higher rent) and which measures they tend to prioritise. This provides an answer to how important a specific technical solution actually is for a successful refurbishment strategy. The data collected can be used to validate or reject research hypotheses on the acceptance of technologies or the preferences of residents.