Evaluating Energy Use Feedback Devices

July/August 2008
A version of this article appears in the July/August 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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July 01, 2008
Experience shows that occupant behavior can make all the difference when it comes to saving energy in homes.
Most homes currently have no means to judge household energy use other than their monthly utility bill. Does more information help home occupants save energy? It is a truism in the home performance field today that occupant behavior has a very large impact on residential energy use. Experience would suggest that this impact is much larger than the impact of intrinsic differences in building materials, or in energy-consuming appliances. Two studies, among many others, support this assertion. The first of these studies measured energy use in ten identical Habitat for Humanity all-electric homes built the year before monitoring in Homestead, Florida. Even though all homes had two or more occupants, with identical appliances and equipment, energy use varied by 2.6:1 from the highest to the lowest consumer (see Figure 1). Detailed measurement of the end uses in the homes revealed that while electrical consumption of appliances such as refrigerators hardly varied at all, consumption for other uses, such as air conditioning, varied by 5:1 from highest to lowest. Evaluation of interior temperature, and of the operation of the air conditioners showed that much of that difference was due to differences in the way occupants used the thermostats. The second study examined 11 very similar ...

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