Behavioural Changes After Energy Efficiency Improvements in Residential Properties



This chapter investigates occupants’ behavioural changes as a result of energy efficiency improvements in the home. A controlled intervention study was set up to examine potential rebound effects and the psychological constructs that might contribute to these effects. Residents of a number of economically deprived communities in Wales were sent self-completion questionnaires before and after they received energy-efficiency improvements under the Arbed scheme. Residents of three nearby communities served as controls for the study. Utility meter readings and indoor air temperatures were also taken for a sub-sample of the study. While there were very few differences in indoor air temperatures between the two groups, the Arbed group was found to use less energy after energy efficiency measures were installed. Observed energy savings were however lower than predicted, suggesting an average rebound effect of 54 %. Although no evidence was found for changes in other energy-related behaviours, there were some changes in a number of associated psychological constructs. Self-reported environmental identity increased for the Arbed group after energy efficiency measures were installed. Similarly, significant differences were also found between the two groups for attitudes towards reducing the amount of heating used in the home. The results provide an indication that psychological mechanisms may underlie the rebound effect.


Direct rebound Energy efficiency Intervention Residential properties 



The authors would like to thank the BRE for funding this PhD research, the Energy Saving Trust for providing the physical monitoring equipment and the occupants who agreed to take part in this research. Sincere thanks also go to J. Shufflebotham, N. Suffolk and J Suffolk for all of their support.


  1. B. Boardman, Achieving Zero: Delivering future-friendly buildings: Environmental Change Institute (Oxford University Centre for the Environment, 2012)Google Scholar
  2. B. Boardman, S. Darby, G. Killip, M. Hinnells, C.N. Jardine, J. Palmer, G. Sinden, 40% House (Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, 2005)Google Scholar
  3. G. Cornelissen, M. Pandelaere, L. Warlop, S. Dewitte, Positive cueing: promoting sustainable consumer behavior by cueing common environmental behaviors as environmental. Int. J. Res. Mark. 25(1), 46–55 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. T. Crompton, Weathercocks and signposts: the environment movement at a crossroads (World Wildlife Fund, UK, 2008)Google Scholar
  5. A. Druckman, M. Chitnis, S. Sorrell, T. Jackson, An investigation into rebound and backfire effects from abatement actions by UK households. RESOLVE Working paper 05-10. University of Sussex (2010)Google Scholar
  6. A. Druckman, M. Chitnis, S. Sorrell, T. Jackson, Missing carbon reductions? Exploring the rebound and backfire effects in UK households. Energy Policy 39, 3572–3581 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. R. Galvin, The Rebound Effect in Home Heating: A Guide for policymakers and practitioners (Routledge, London, 2015)Google Scholar
  8. S. Gavankar, R. Geyer, The Rebound Effect: State of the Debate and Implications for Energy Efficiency Research (Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, Santa Barbara, 2010)Google Scholar
  9. A.I. Guerra, F. Sancho, Rethinking economy-wide rebound measures: an unbiased proposal. Energy Policy 38(11), 6684–6694 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. W.S. Jevons, The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal Mines (Macmillan and Co, London and Cambridge, 1865)Google Scholar
  11. R. Madlener, B. Alcott, Energy rebound and economic growth: a review of the main issues and research needs. Energy 34(3), 370–376 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. G. Milne, B. Boardman, Making cold homes warmer: the effect of energy efficiency improvements in low-income homes a report to the energy action grants agency charitable trust. Energy Policy 28(6–7), 411–424 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. W. Poortinga, L. Whitmarsh, C. Suffolk, The introduction of a single-use carrier bag charge in Wales: attitude change and behavioural spillover effects. J. Environ. Psychol. 36, 240–247 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Royal commission on environmental pollution: twenty-sixth report. The Urban Environment (2007)Google Scholar
  15. S. Sorrell, Jevons’ paradox revisited: the evidence for backfire from improved energy efficiency. Energy Policy 37(4), 1456–1469 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. S. Sorrell, J. Dimitropoulos, M. Sommerville, Empirical estimates of the direct rebound effect: a review. Energy Policy 37(4), 1356–1371 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. J.E. Stets, C.F. Biga, Bringing identity theory into environmental sociology. Sociol. Theor. 21(4), 398–423 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. J. Thøgersen, Spillover processes in the development of a sustainable consumption pattern. J. Econ. Psychol. 20(1), 53–81 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. J. Thøgersen, T. Crompton, Simple and painless? The limitations of spillover in environmental campaigning. J. Consum. Policy 32(2), 141–163 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. J. Thøgersen, F. Ölander, Spillover of environment-friendly consumer behaviour. J. Environ. Psychol. 23(3), 225–236 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. B.A. Thomas, I.L. Azevedo, Estimating direct and indirect rebound effects for US households with input–output analysis part 1: theoretical framework. Ecol. Econ. 86, 199–210 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. E. Van der Werff, L. Steg, K. Keizer, I am what i am, by looking past the present: the influence of biospheric values and past behavior on environmental self-identity. Environ Behav (2013)Google Scholar
  23. L. Whitmarsh, S. O’Neill, Green identity, green living? The role of pro-environmental self-identity in determining consistency across diverse pro-environmental behaviours. J. Environ. Psychol. 30(3), 305–314 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Welsh School of ArchitectureCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

Personalised recommendations