Factors affecting residential heating energy consumption
Author(s)Donovan, John J.; Fischer, Walter P.
Twenty per cent of all energy consumed in New England and ten per cent of all energy consumed in the United States is consumed in home heating. This paper reports on an effort to ascertain the major factors affecting the consumption of home heating oil. Three general classes of factors are analyzed: (1) physical and occupant characteristics (number of rooms, number of occupants, number of stories, amount of insulation, income level, etc.); (2) external (price, shortage awareness, weather); and (3) behavioral and physical changes (change in temperature settings, change in insulation, change in oil burner, etc.). The study is based on four data series: (1) actual monthly home heating oil consumption data on 8000 suburban homeowners in suburban Boston; (2) questionnaire responses from 2000 homeowners on their homes' physical and occupant characteristics, as well as changes in physical and occu- pant behavioral characteristics between 1972 and 1975; (3) monthly weather data; and (4) heating oil price data. The data is associated with the years from 1972 through 1975, a period in which marked price changes, shortages, and behavioral changes occurred, hence providing an opportunity to study the effects of these various events. Three models are central to the study: Model I. A cross-sectional model that depicts consumption per degree-day as a function of physical and occupant characteristics of a home. Model II. A time series regression model that establishes consumption per degree-day as a function of price and consumer awareness of an energy shortage. Model III. A cross-sectional regression model that attempts to explain change in consumption per degree-day from one year to the next as a function of specific conservation actions such as temperature resetting, addition of storm windows, etc. The major findings of each model are as follows: Model I: House size, age of home, family income, and the presence of storm doors and windows are all significant factors in predicting the amount of home oil consumption. Model II: Estimated values of price elasticity with respect to demand for residential heating oil and a measure of 'mnpact of shortage awareness on consumption are determined. This model also demonstrates that there were substantial savings in consumption corresponding to increases in price and shortage awareness from 1972-1975. Model III: he data from the questionnaire indicate that only a few consumers made physical home improvements; however, the data from the oil company indicate that a substantial savings (over 12%) in consumption occurred between the heating seasons 1972/73 and 1973/74. The conclusion from this data indicates that behavioral changes were the major conservation actions taken. Model III indicates that the behavioral change of temperature resetting is significant and the physical change of additional weather stripping and change of burner are significant. Further study is needed, however, to determine those behavioral changes that accounted for the major change in consumption. In addition, this model indicates that different groups within the sample (e.g., by income level, house characteristics) display similar conservation efficiency. In addition to the findings of the models, the paper includes (in Appendix B) a detailed discussion of biases associated with the data. Major conclusions from that discussion are: (1) our sample is representative of suburban homes in the Northern United States; (2) the consumers who responded to the questionnaire were slightly more energy- conscious and responded slightly more dramatically to price increases than the general populace; (3) our residential heating oil prices are representative of those that prevailed in the region; and (4) the heating seasons 1972 through 1975 were warmer than usual. Trends in the data indicate that new homes in the sample have a considerable amount of insulation and the typical single-family house in the sample has storm windows and doors.
MIT Energy Lab
Dwellings -- Fuel consumption, Heating, Energy consumption in New England
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