Real Estate

Smart thermostats help ‘energy illiterate’ homeowners

January 31, 2012 | 1 min read

The authors began their study with a survey of 1721 Dutch households. The startling revelation that 43% of consumers have no idea what their energy bill contains is a difficult starting point for behavior modification, says Dirk Brounen. “If they don’t know how much they’re using, it’s hard to persuade them to save,” he says. In addition 40% of homeowners surveyed had a difficult time choosing between short-term and long-term savings of energy (and therefore money): for example, to buy an inexpensive central heating system that costs much more in terms of energy use and money over time, or to invest in an expensive system that will offer energy-and-money-saving over the long run.

While the Dutch government has stimulated such energy-awareness and — saving measures as subsidies for insulation, double-glazed windows and solar panels, these initiatives rely upon ‘energy literate’ homeowners. SoBrounen says that he and the other authors have one simple recommendation: standardized ‘smart’ thermometers that adjust residential heating automatically. “People will save money and energy without even knowing it,” he says.


This article may be reproduced according to our terms of use with attribution (and link, if online) to To be cited as: “Smart thermostats help ‘energy illiterate’ homeowners”, Dirk Brounen, Nils Kok and John Quigley,, January 31, 2012.

Read more

Research Paper
Appendix: Survey Questions
New research on energy literacy (blog Nils Kok)


Dirk Brounen
Professor of Real Estate, Tilburg Sustainability Center

John M. Quigley †
I.Donald TernerDistinguished Professor, U.C. Berkeley

Nils Kok
Associate Professor in Finance and Real Estate, Maastricht University

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