Experiment: Nudging Homeowners Towards a Home Energy Evaluation

Research Question:
Do cost- or comfort-specific messaging interventions nudge more homeowners to seek out a home evaluation service organization than does generic energy efficiency messaging?
Project Summary:
Natural Resources Canada licenses home energy advisors across Canada to deliver: - the EnerGuide rating system - the ENERGY STAR® certification system for new homes - the R‑2000 standard for energy-efficient homes Research into behaviour suggests that the way we communicate and frame energy efficiency messaging to Canadians matters. How much does the framing matter? This experiment used our previous work and the behavioural insights theory to test different ways of framing messages to users of the Carrot Rewards application in order to learn what works when encouraging users to contact a home energy advisor in their area.
Design Details:
We used the Carrot Rewards application to: - evaluate homeowners’ knowledge of the EnerGuide home evaluation process - test whether more homeowners in British Columbia, Ontario, and Newfoundland would seek out a home energy evaluation service provider when prompted with cost, comfort or conventional (the control) EnerGuide information Participants were randomized into 3 groups, and all participants completed questions about their knowledge of the EnerGuide home energy evaluation process. In total, approximately 30,000 homeowners participated in the online experiment; data were collected in December 2018 and January 2019.
Participants completed similar but subtly different reward offers related to the EnerGuide home evaluation process, which included 1 of 3 randomized message treatments: The neutral-framed messaging (control) included language such as “an EnerGuide evaluation is a powerful tool!” The cost-framed messaging had the same information as the control, but it included messaging about cost, such as “an EnerGuide evaluation can cut your energy bills.” The comfort-framed messaging had the same information as the control, but it included messaging about comfort, such as “an EnerGuide evaluation can keep you warm this winter.” Both the cost- and comfort-framed offers also included 2 additional questions about cost (reduction in monthly bills) or comfort (heat loss in older homes) to further enhance the potential effect of message framing.
After the participants completed the survey, their uptake of home evaluation services was measured by monitoring the click-through rate and the number of postal codes entered on Natural Resources Canada’s service providers in your community web page.
There was little difference in how the messages performed. Cost-framed messaging had a statistically significant effect and generated a slightly higher click-through rate (78.9%) compared to the control group (77.8%). However, the difference between the click-through rate generated by comfort-framed messaging (78.7%) compared to the rate generated by the control group (77.8%) was not statistically significant. The distinction between cost-framed and comfort-framed messaging is very subtle, and this may have been a limitation of the experiment, especially one that was presented using a mobile application. The statistical power of the experiment was significantly reduced when: only 23,551 of the 30,000 participants completed the click-through only 16,131 participants entered their postal code This attrition rate further limits what distinctions can be inferred about the different messaging treatments. Interestingly, this experiment highlighted a postal code entry rate of roughly 54% when using the Carrot Rewards application as an outreach channel to encourage homeowners to look for an EnerGuide service provider. This work has opened up opportunities for further message-framing experiments. However, developing an experiment that compares the impact of message framing on consumers will require: additional research a larger sample of responses stronger interventions to observe substantive and statistically significant differences in uptake for an EnerGuide home evaluation
Experimentation Area:
Experiment Status:
Last Updated:
Jul 12, 2019
Local Branch and/or Unit:
Office of Energy Efficiency
Reference No.:
Natural Resources Canada
Date modified: