If you want to encourage energy efficiency, make it easy for people

In a crisp New York Times piece last week, behavioral economist Richard Thaler reminds us that people are much more likely to be energy-efficient if you make it easy for them.

He points to a recent experiment in the UK that explored how to encourage homeowners to install insulation in their attics. 45% of a home’s heat loss in winter can stem from inadequate insulation, and an estimated 9 million homes in the UK (40% of homes) have attics that are not properly insulated.

To determine how they can best promote attic insulation, the UK Government partnered with a home improvement retailer to test the effectiveness of two types of consumer offers:

1) Some households were offered a discount (similar to a Groupon) on insulation services

2) A separate group of homeowners were told that, if they signed up to insulate their attic and paid a small extra fee, the insulation company would “make it easy” for them: the company would remove their stuff from the attic, install the insulation, help the homeowner discard/donate unwanted stuff, and then neatly put all the good stuff back in the attic.

Result: the households given the “make it easy” offer were by far the most likely to install attic insulation. Relieved of the hassle to clean their attic, these homes signed up for insulation at 3 times the typical rate.

It appears that the solution to some of our most difficult energy challenges may be…to make it easy.

View article…

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