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Switched On Homes: Behavioural Energy Efficiency

20 Aug 2015 by Peter

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In mid 2014 we partnered up with the City of Gosnells to deliver an innovative energy efficiency trial called Switched on Homes. The purpose of the program is to study how low-income households engage with, and respond to, feedback on their energy use, helping them reduce their electricity bills through ‘non-traditional’ methods, that’s code for doing something other than swapping out some light bulbs for LEDs.

For us, the really interesting component of the program is the focus on behaviour: Participants receive regular energy tips, energy consumption insights and energy reduction assistance through timely, personalised text messages.

As most folks probably know, changing people’s behaviour can be more than a little tricky – see here if you’re not sure what I mean. It’s hoped that this novel approach of using direct feedback will be an effective way to modify user behaviour and improve energy efficiency, after all, when was the last time you received a text message and didn’t check it? This is what makes a text based service so powerful. The catch? The messages must be short and sweet, people need to feel they’re being told something useful and relevant – so high value content is a must.

For the Switched on Homes project there are two types of messages, general energy efficiency tips and personalised energy advice. The following are some examples of each message type:

  • Energy smart tip – Washing your clothes using hot water can use 10 times more energy than a cold wash. Use the coolest temperature possible on your washing machine.
  • Energy smart tip – As the weather gets cooler remember to shut your curtains at night, you can lose up to 40% of your home’s heat through unprotected glass.
  • Personalised message – Did you know you used $24.50 of electricity last week while you were asleep (11pm-6am)? 
  • Personalised message – Your electricity use increased by 124% over the last week. Over a year this would add up to approximately $1,293.

If you think these efficiency tips seem obvious then you are in the engaged-energy-user minority; for many Australians energy literacy is woefully low. Those who aren’t aware of the basics have the most to gain, as the majority of the tips only require small changes to behaviour, costing the household nothing. The personalised energy messages provide the household with tailored feedback on energy consumption (kWh) and costs in terms that are simple to understand.

We’re hoping to have a look-see at some results from the Switched on Homes program towards the end of this year, so stay tuned and we’ll report back with an update.

Switched on Homes is an Australian Government funded energy efficiency program trial for low income households in the South East Metropolitan Region of Perth, including the City of Armadale, City of Gosnells and Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale. If you would like more information see here.

One response to “Switched On Homes: Behavioural Energy Efficiency”

  1. Nicklas Lindewald says:

    Great stuff! What about “your next door neighbor, also in a 3 BR house and 4 people used 25% less electricity last week”?

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