Why do people decide to renovate their homes to improve energy efficiency?

Date published: 01/01/2014

A large body of applied research on energy efficiency characterises drivers and barriers to cost-effective home renovations, and identifies personal and contextual influences on renovation decisions. Resulting policies to promote energy efficiency in homes aim to remove barriers or strengthen decision influences.

The Green Deal in the UK is a recent example, allowing accredited third party financing of energy efficient renovations to remove capital cost barriers and strengthen trust and confidence in the efficiency supply chain. Although tractable, empirical, and instrumental in designing policy, the explanatory power of applied energy efficiency research is self-limiting for both methodological and conceptual reasons. Methodological limitations include priming biases towards financial variables, and cross-sectional depictions of decisions as events.

Conceptual limitations include a constrictive scope of enquiry that emphasises efficiency renovations to the exclusion of amenity and other types of home improvement, houses as physical spaces to the exclusion of emotional and social characteristics of homes, and households as coherent decision making units to the exclusion of dynamics and differentiated roles within the home.

Social research on homes and domestic life addresses these limitations yet has run largely in parallel and even at polarised counterpoint to applied energy efficiency research. This in turn has constrained the scope and effectiveness of energy efficiency policies like the Green Deal. Renovation decision-making should be understood within the conditions of everyday domestic life from which decisions emerge.

Download: Tyndall Working Paper #160