Real Estate

Energy savings: now that homes are in order, it’s up to their occupants to take the next step

February 6, 2015 | 1 min read

The energy consumption of Dutch households has decreased significantly in recent years.Yet households do not achieve the maximum attainable energy savings, claims Dirk Brounen, Tilburg Professor Real Estate Economics, based on his research.“It turns out that people who make their homes more energy-efficient are less critical about their energy consumption.If we want energy consumption to decrease even further, we also have to focus on behavior.”

Together with Erdal Aydin of Tilburg University and Nils Kok of Maastricht University, Dirk Brounen has studied the interplay between a home’s energy efficiency and the lifestyle of its occupants. They studied the gas consumption of 670,000 Dutch households with an energy label in 2011 and 2012, in addition to changes in the quality of the buildings and occupant behavior. They then compared the results to the predicted energy consumption according to the energy label and the daily temperatures.

Rebound effect

The researchers show that the energy consumption of many households deviates in practice from expectations. Brounen explains, “If a home is more energy-efficient and therefore cheaper to heat, the thermostat is often set a little higher again after some time. People adapt their behavior to the situation, to the insulated home. We call this the rebound effect.” Brounen, Aydin and Kok have observed that this is the case with 41 percent of renters and 27 percent of homeowners. “If a house is made 100% more energy-efficient, this leads to energy savings of 59% for rental homes and 73% for owner-occupied properties," says Brounen. “It turns out that people in lower income brackets and those with more intensive gas consumption adapt their behavior most.”


According to this Tilburg researcher, government policy should also focus more explicitly on influencing people's behavior. “The current policy primarily targets home improvements. Now that we know that the lifestyle of occupants also influences their ultimate energy consumption, government policy should also focus more on influencing this behavior. By continuously offering incentives, such as providing information displays that show energy consumption, energy consumption can be decreased further.”

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The rebound effect in residential heating, Erdal Aydin, Dirk Brounen, Nils Kok (2015)

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