Heat Loss Images, Norm Appeals Raise Impacts in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat, a city in western Canada with a municipally owned utility, was interested in exploring how consumers would respond to receiving information on their home’s heat loss and estimated savings from improving their home’s insulation and air tightness as part of their monthly utility bill. After an in-depth literature review, study organizers agreed on conducting a Randomized Controlled Trial, then randomly selected 14,000 single-detached households to participate, separating them into three groups of equal sizes. Households included in the two treatment groups, the Heat Loss Imaging and Norms Group and ‘Traditional’ Home Energy Report (HER) Group, were given different forms of monthly on-bill messaging, while households assigned to the Control Group did not receive any tips or behavioral feedback on their utility bills. Offered on an opt-out basis, residents could have their home removed from the study within 1-5 business days upon a request being made. Utility bills and data collected on electricity and natural gas consumption via “smart” electricity meters one year prior to and after treatment allowed the city to evaluate the impacts of different trial methods on consumer behavior. Ultimately it was determined that the messaging used in the Heat Loss Imaging and Norms treatment group was twice as effective as the methodology employed for the ‘Traditional’ Home Energy Report group.

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