New RTI Press book encourages homeowner energy saving using behavioral science

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Many homeowners see the advantages of saving energy. But taking steps to save energy on a daily basis means making conscious choices, and that can be hard to accomplish.

A new book published by RTI Press and co-edited by RTI International's Brian G. Southwell explores the behavioral factors behind individual homeowners' use of energy, and what might change those behaviors. Southwell is director of the Science in the Public Sphere Program in RTI's Center for Communication Science.

"Innovations in Home Energy Use: A Sourcebook for Behavior Change" is a collection of essays by contributors affiliated with a 2015 summit organized by Duke University's Bass Connections in Energy program and RTI. The Project LIT HoMES (Leveraging Individual Transitions into Homeownership to Motivate Energy Savings) Summit centered on innovative ways to reduce the amount of energy used by U.S. homeowners.

The book is meant to bring an interdisciplinary focus on energy use behavior to the conversation about energy conservation and energy efficiency, Southwell writes in the preface, and comes at a moment when the White House has announced its new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team initiative which is emphasizing the role of behavioral science in addressing a variety of social concerns.

"People generally do not want to waste energy wantonly, and many people likely find the idea of saving energy to be reasonably attractive," Southwell writes. "The question lies in how to change actual behavior."

The interdisciplinary nature of the book shows in the diverse subjects of the essays. Some of the innovative energy-saving ideas in the book include making information about home energy use available through real-estate websites and creating employer-based energy reduction plans.

The authors emphasize the role of behavior in saving energy, both at the individual level and in the realm of public policy. One essay analyzes the complex economic factors involved in adding energy-saving renovations to a typical home; others look at educational programs and incentives offered by communities or utilities.

At RTI, Southwell directs the Science in the Public Sphere program in the Center for Communication Science. He holds faculty appointments at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was one of the faculty advisers for the Project LIT HoMES Summit. He also hosts a public radio show, "The Measure of Everyday Life," featuring stories from social science on WNCU-FM (90.7 in the Raleigh-Durham broadcast market and via live streaming at wncu.org, as well as via iTunes).

Co-editors Elizabeth M.B. Doran and Laura S. Richman were also affiliated with Project LIT HoMES. Doran, a doctoral candidate in earth and ocean sciences at Duke, led the steering committee for the summit. Richman, a Duke faculty member in psychology and neuroscience, co-led Project LIT HoMES.

The book's 24 chapter authors are from Carnegie Mellon University, Clean Energy Durham, Duke University, Grapevine Realty Services, Greenthinc, North Carolina Building Performance Association, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, North Carolina State University, RTI International, Terracel Energy Consulting, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wake County (NC) Government.

The book is available through RTI Press and Amazon.com.

Highlights

  • A new book co-edited by RTI International’s Brian G. Southwell explores the behavioral factors behind individual homeowners’ use of energy, and what might change those behaviors
  • The book is meant to bring an interdisciplinary focus on energy use behavior to the conversation about energy conservation and energy efficiency