Insights into energy-related behaviour and tenant perceptions of comfort

Insights into energy-related behaviour and tenant perceptions of comfort

Green investment programmes often fail to reach the forecasted reduction goals, and one of the critical reasons is related to social behaviour. As part of the inter-Nordic project Sure!, Insero embraces this challenge by different means. One is to obtain insights into the local and social life among those who live in the trial areas that will be subjected to technical and non-technical inventions.  



In the initial phase of the SURE! project, Insero carried out the first user surveys among the tenants in the two Danish housing associations in Horsens that are part of the SURE! project. More than 125 people participated in a questionnaire survey, which focused on habits related to energy consumption, attitudes towards environment and climate, and perceptions of indoor climate among the tenants. Here, Insero carried out tenant interviews towards the end of 2015 to get deeper insights into the users’ perceptions of good comfort, present challenges and behavioural dilemmas related to comfort and energy consumptions.

Demands for more knowledge

The first user survey – a questionnarie – was carried out among tenants to get an initial understanding of how aware the tenants are of their energy consumption, what they do to save energy, and what they understand by indoor climate.

The survey showed that the tenants are aware of indoor climate, and they are conscious about their energy consumption habits – but most of them would like more information on how they can lower their heat consumption.


High confidence in own behavior - low confidence in others' willingness to change habits 


The survey first of all revealed that the majority of tenants believe that they show consideration for the environment. In fact, this is something they prioritize above other things, and almost all of the participants are aware of the fact that their way of living affect the environment to some degree. However, more than half of the participants don’t feel that they have enough knowledge about about how they can save energy and hot water.


Following up on this, more than three quarters of the participants indicate that they would be willing to change their habits to some degree, in order to save money on their hot water usage. However, more than half of the participants have doubts about whether the other residents (i.e. others than themselves) would be willing to change their habits.


Practices related to temperature 


People have different opinions about what the temperature should be, but overal the participants are reasonably satisfied with the temperature in their apartment.


As mentioned, the surveys indicates that tenants are aware of their consumption and its affect on the environment, and they also show an interest in lowering their consumption, but there is a big diffence in how they handle this. For example, one third indicate that they often or always turn down the heat when they leave the apartment, and one third often or always turn down the heat when they go to bed. Furthermore, more than half often or always put on hot clothes when they are cold – instead of turning up the heat. On the other hand, 20 % often or always have the heat on when opening the windows in the apartment for ventilation.

Disagreement about correct 'energy practices'

The qualitative interviews reveal that there is some disagreement about correct ‘energy practices’, e.g. whether to turn off the radiator when opening the windows or not. Some tenants believe that venting has no impact on heat consumption, because of the radiator location, while others are more likely to turn off the radiator when the window is open.

These beliefs are based on the tenants’ own understanding of the technology. In other words, these beliefs could be changed and aligned by providing all tenants with valid guidelines on how to act in situations dealing with ventilation. 

Perceptions of indoor climate


Most of the participants have an understanding of indoor climate, even if they don’t all focus on the same things. Some of the recurrent things that are associated with indoor climate are:


  • good ventilation (and suction) and fresh air to avoid the smell of food
  • good, even average temperature, so you can enjoy yourself without wearing an extra sweater or a blanket – and no drag. All indications suggest that a good comfort temperature is somewhere betwwen 20-23 degrees
  • proper insulation in order to avoid over-heating
  • good humidity and airing several times a day by opening windows
  • absence of mold and mold fungus
  • air, light and heat

The majority of the participants are satisfies with the air quality and indoor climate in their apartments. Occasional experiences of bad air quality are associated with cooking smell or moist air from the toilet.


Finally, the follow-up study interestingly reveal that when it comes to humidity, tenants worry mostly about the indirect consequences of high humidity, which in most cases will be mold fungus. However, there is not much focus on the health consequences resulting directly from low humidity in the apartment. Too low humidity could result in dry mucous membranes and resulting irritation. Using the IC-meter to visualize the level of humidity to tenants could put more focus on avoiding that the humidity lies in either the high or low end of the spectrum.


Concluding thoughts


The insights briefly discussed here show the tenants to have an interest in and a willingness towards behavioral changes to reduce energy consumption. When asked to identify indoor comfort, tenants emphasize different qualities, but despite the differences, they actively take steps towards increasing the indoor comfort.


Still, the survey indicates that best-intentions-efforts in some cases derive from tenants’ own reasonings and their own assessment of ‘the right thing to do’ in the specific use cases. The initial social research insights serve as a knowledge baseline and a stepping stone for the design and planning of the user interventions that will be further tested as a part of the second fase of the SURE! project.