Low-carbon homes, thermal comfort and household practices: Uplifting the energy-efficiency discourse

Low-carbon homes, thermal comfort and household practices: Uplifting the energy-efficiency discourse


Lygia Romanach, Zoe Leviston, Talia Jeanneret and John Gardner

Organisation of Presenter:

CSIRO, Australia


Reducing carbon emissions within the residential sector plays an important role in meeting carbon reduction targets. Low-carbon homes or homes with very high-energy efficiency ratings aim to decrease residential carbon emissions by reducing overall energy demand and increasing reliance on low-carbon energy sources. Numerous assessment and rating tools are available to motivate investment in low-carbon homes. However, the demand for low-carbon products and homes has been lower than anticipated. This study explored householders’ notions of home comfort and energy efficiency, as well as construction specialists’ perceptions about the market for low-carbon products and homes to investigate how such a market could be enhanced. The study collected data though four phases. Phase 1 and 2 explored householders’ views through focus groups (n=107) and a household telephone survey (n=866). Phase 3 explored construction specialists’ views through an online specialist survey (n=492) and phase 4 included an online experimental study (n=2008) to test message frames promoting low-carbon homes to potential home buyers. Overall, telephone survey participants expressed high levels of interest in energy efficient homes and homes with lower running costs. Phase 1 and 2 data also showed that the notion of home energy efficiency constructed by householders is heavily based on technological aspects, such as energy efficient appliances and/or renewable energy sources, which are closely related to the economic (i.e. saving energy costs) or environmental (i.e. reducing carbon emissions) benefits of energy efficiency. However, the same data indicated that energy efficient features such as airflow and ventilation, appropriate indoor temperatures and natural light are closely related to householders’ notion of home comfort, suggesting that the market for energy efficient homes could be enhanced by making the link between energy efficiency and home comfort more evident. This concept was tested through a message framing survey, which confirmed that messages embedded with the notion of energy efficiency in the context of home comfort were more effective in increasing the perceived benefits of low-carbon homes than standard messages that simply listed energy features. Implications of these findings for enhancing the uptake of low-carbon homes are discussed.