How much energy savings are possible from behavior change alone, absent significant retrofit investments? A testing of this question motivated this residential case study, with over a decade’s worth of data. The test residence was the lead author’s roughly 2,500 sf vintage 1980 house in southeastern Pennsylvania, which doubles as his office. During periods of single occupancy, energy usage averaged about 8 kWh and 2 ccf of gas per day, saving roughly $2,000 per year relative to typical residences of similar type and size. With fuller occupancy, the figures were 14 kWh and 2 ccf. This was achieved with old, low-efficiency HVAC equipment (12 SEER central air conditioner and 78% AFUE furnace) and minimal to non-existent comfort sacrifices.
How could consumption be this low? Behavior change was the key driver – specifically, aggressive use of the set-back thermostat, very conscientious deployment of windows, shades, a whole-house fan, etc., coupled with conventional low-cost energy conservation measures, such as CFL and LED lighting.
Is this model widely replicable? It may be, but it would require training of household members and may not be readily amenable to third-party profiteering. Could utility house call programs integrate behavioral training for residents, using tested behavioral change theories as part of conventional energy audits? In the age of climate change, deep savings are being sought from existing homes, but it may not be realistic to achieve them cost-effectively without considerable resident cooperation.