The Role of Comparative Electricity Use Feedback at the Building Level in University Research Buildings
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University research buildings are significant energy consumers in the United States. There is therefore a need to reduce energy use on the nation\'s campuses, not only cutting their carbon footprints but also saving money. Universities\' efforts to reduce energy use include updating older facilities, implementing renewable energy systems, and encouraging energy saving behavior. This study evaluated the differential effects of two forms of feedback on electricity consumption in two groups of research buildings on a college campus to determine whether providing feedback to energy users has an impact on energy conservation behavior. A control group of buildings received no feedback regarding their electricity use. In the first study group of buildings, occupants received information about their electricity consumption with some electricity saving tips, distributed via email. The same procedure was followed with building occupants in the second study group, who received additional information showing their electricity consumption performance in comparison to other buildings within the study group. The baseline reading was conducted a week before the experiment began in August, 2012. Over the course of the five week study, the daily adjusted average reductions in electricity usage compared to the control group were less than 1 percent for both study groups, with study group 1 achieving an average reduction of 0.2 percent and study group 2 an average reduction of 0.8 percent. Although the reduction observed for study group 2 was 4 times greater than that for study group 1, the saving was not continuous over the study period. Accordingly, the result was deemed to be not statistically significant and the effectiveness of comparative energy use feedback in university research buildings was not supported. However, even small savings in the energy used in university research buildings can be very important in terms of the total amount of energy saved because research buildings use significantly more energy than other buildings on campus such as academic buildings and residence blocks. This study concludes with a consideration of potentially fruitful directions for future research into developing new ways to reduce the energy consumption on university campuses.
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