UF/IFAS study sheds light on how willing we are to adjust our energy bills

Energy upgrades 080415

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All it takes is six questions. You answer those, and University of Florida researchers say contractors will know how willing you are to upgrade your home for energy efficiency and whether you can afford the improvements.

Heating and cooling make up 54 percent of American households’ utility bills, a primary concern for Randy Cantrell, a UF/IFAS assistant professor and Extension specialist in housing and community development. For some people, their monthly energy bill comes as sticker shock. But we all react differently when we open the envelope, and Cantrell calls that response “botheredness.”

Cantrell wanted to know two things: how bothered people are by their energy bill and whether they can afford to do something about it. So he and Brad Sewell, a graduate research assistant, used a web-based survey of about 1,000 American homeowners to divide them into groups based on utility bill botheredness and budgetary constraints for household upgrades.

The answers to the six survey questions, which are in the process of being linked to a database of corresponding homeowner profile types, are the basis for a decision-making strategy called Decision-Ade™. Through Decision-Ade™, you’re assigned to one of 16 groups, each with its own profile. Decision-Ade™ helps homeowners and contractors decide what course of action, if any, to take in improving their houses.

Once the database is fully functional, residential contractors who subscribe to Decision-Ade™ will be able to ask potential homeowner clients to respond to the six questions. They then digitally upload the answers to the database, which downloads back to them the profile that describes the homeowner, Cantrell said. This gives subscribing contractors a competitive advantage because they have information that makes their bid more insightful about the homeowners and their overall upgrade needs.

Decision-Ade™ is being field tested as it continues through research and development. Cantrell and Sewell will look to transfer this technology for public use.

UF/IFAS researchers found that people with discretionary money in their household budget who are most bothered by their utility bill are the likeliest to improve their home’s utility efficiency. Some people are bothered by their utility bill but don’t have the money to upgrade their homes. Some have the money but aren’t that bothered by their bill, partially because they can afford it, the study shows.

Cantrell said people who are the most bothered by their utility bill and have the most money are highly motivated to act.

“They are highly motivated to act and have the resources to do so,” said Cantrell, a faculty member in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. “Homeowners desiring upgrades who contact contractors can answer six questions, and remodelers will then be able to offer a much more directed bid to the homeowner, based on the profile rendered to the remodeler about the homeowner.”

The study was published online June 4 in the Society of Civil Engineers’ Journal of Architectural Engineering.


Caption: A meter shows how much energy your home uses. Randy Cantrell, a UF/IFAS assistant professor and Extension specialist in housing and community development, conducted a national web-based survey to divide homeowners into groups, based on how bothered they are by their energy bills and how willing and financially able they are to upgrade their homes for better energy efficiency.

Credit: UF/IFAS

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Randy Cantrell, 352-273-3554, rcantrell@ufl.edu



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Posted: August 4, 2015

Category: Agriculture, Money Matters, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Research, Work & Life
Tags: Family, Survey

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