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The effect of structural modifications on energy conservation behaviors Public Deposited

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  • This study focused on the relationship between energy related behaviors prior to and following structural modifications of the residence. If energy saving structural modifications are made, will there also be a concommitant change in energy conserving behavioral practices? The objectives of this study were: 1) to create a profile of the sample consisting of those who added one or more structural modifications between March, 1981 and March, 1983 and 2) to determine behavior changes for those respondents who added energy conserving structural features between March, 1981 and March, 1983. Two limitations of energy conservation research as identified by previous researchers in this field were addressed. The ability to address these limitations was accomplished through specific hypotheses testing and the use of data from the Western Regional Project W-159. Longitudinal data for Oregon were obtained by mail survey in March, 1981 and again in March, 1983 from a stratified (50% rural /50 % urban) random sample. With the exception of minor changes, the questionnaire sent in 1983 was identical to the questionnaire sent in 1981. The survey initiated in 1981 to 1,503 Oregon households yielded a 67.2 percent rate (834). In the 1983 survey, questionnaires were sent to the 1981 respondents and to 541 additional randomly selected individuals. Six hundred of the returned questionnaires from the original 834 respondents were usable, a return rate of 89.2 percent. Of the 600 respondents, 170 met two criteria for inclusion in the sample: 1) were homeowners and 2) had completed structural modifications after March, 1981 and prior to March, 1983. Of these 170 respondents, 93 were able to be identified longitudinally. For the present study, two detailed questions were selected from the questionnaire. These questions dealt with structural energy saving modifications which respondents had taken or planned to take in the future, whereas the second question asked what energy conserving behaviors respondents were taking. Six criteria were used to assess energy conserving behaviors, such as change the use of rooms to take advantage of sun-warmed or shaded areas and close off rooms. Nine housing structural modifications were used based on the number of energy conservation features the respondents had added to their homes, such as storm doors and floor insulation. Frequency distributions were used to develop descriptions of respondents and their homes. Males most often responded to the questionnaire. Respondents were characterized by an average age of 47.7 years, a median gross family income in the category of $25,000 through $29,000, some college education, and had an average of 4.4 investments. These respondents lived in homes characterized by an average value range and size range of $50,000 through $74,999 and 1001 square feet through 1500 square feet, respectively, and were most commonly constructed prior to 1945. The majority of homes were located in rural areas and utilized electricity for space heating. The fuel used for water heating was more equally distributed among electricity, oil, wood, and natural gas. Although the results of the t-test and analysis of variance were not statistically significant, possible behavior patterns which support and contradict previous studies related to structural modifications were found. First, the selection of structural modifications which were found to be related to an increase in conservation behaviors were also those which, comparatively, required a greater capital investment, an increased amount of physical labor, and had the greatest energy saving potential. Second, the behavior change scores for respondents who did not add the specific feature decreased from 1981 to 1983 for all features with the exception of weatherstripping and caulking, while behavior change scores for respondents who did add the specific feature decreased for: 1) weatherstripping and caulking, 2) storm doors, 3) glass doors on fireplaces, and 4) wood-burning stoves. Third, energy saving behaviors of respondents increased when insulation related features were added. Fourth, a degree of lifestyle preservation by those who actually made structural changes was suggested by two observations: 1) energy conserving behaviors decreased following structural modifications, and 2) respondents selected energy conserving behaviors which required little or no changes to lifestyle and/or comfort. This study documents patterns of behaviors which emerged following residential structural modifications. A better understanding of residential energy consumption patterns is important to consumers, educators, researchers, utility companies, government officials and others who influence energy programs and policies as well as the housing environment. Knowledge of these behavior patterns may be used by professionals: 1) to educate consumers of indicated behavior patterns and 2) as a basis on which policy decisions can be made to facilitate energy conservation. Only with knowledge of behavior patterns can effective programs and education curricula be planned which sufficiently inform consumers of efficient (effective) energy conservation methods.
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