Reader nudges for the home and office

John Tierney’s column from two weeks ago generated plenty of reader response. Nudge proposals from two readers were particularly interesting.

From Mike W.:

On average, 75% of our personal energy expenditures can be traced to 4 pieces of equipment: our car, furnace, air conditioner, and water heater. I would focus on nudges in those areas:

cars – Ask folks to sign an online pledge to leave the car at home one day per week (give them a free t-shirt displaying their selected day). Practically speaking, that day may have to be Saturday for a lot of folks, and there would be some back-sliding on the pledge. But being forced to either stay home or ride-share one day a week would really force people to pay attention to their unnecessary trips.

furnace/A.C. – The electric and nat-gas companies should offer a discounted energy rate to anyone who agrees to a home energy audit once a year. The homeowner wouldn’t be obliged to follow the audit recommendations (I’m a libertarian, too), but it may be all the nudge they need. Also it would give the power companies more information as to where the most common inefficiencies are.

water heater – This is easy, and works for me: start one of those electric timers when you get in the shower, get out when it dings (3 minutes seems to work for me). Before I started doing this, I had no idea how often I just stood in the shower until the hot water ran out!

From Jeff Elder:

Something similar at the office happens. No one recycled paper unless big bins were placed next to every copier or printer (and little ones in their offices). Now, most people just drop extra copies, etc in there. Some choices can be made so easy to get almost everyone to participate. So, I am in big agreement with nudges – real-time feedback. I think that having a single tool to collect footprint data from many sources may be too difficult to set up for the vast majority of people…I think having some sort of visual display that shows the relative differential of energy-saving efforts (a la the int’l flight, vs car emissions, vs recycling a coke can, etc. ) might be more awareness raising.

For those interested, the leader in energy-usage displays is Lucid, which produces a Building Dashboard that keeps track of real-time information which can be download it for further analysis. As of right now, the Building Dashboard is better suited for commercial buildings than for individual homes – it’s expensive!



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