Sustainable Habitat

by Brett Simon

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Natural Resources and Environment
Degree: MS
Year: 2015
Keywords: energy efficiency; affordable housing; energy consumption; energy conservation
Record ID: 2062152
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/110991


Habitat for Humanity of Michigan (HFHM) seeks to improve energy efficiency and promote reduced energy consumption among Habitat homes through improved building science and education. Interviews with 21 HFH affiliates from around Michigan revealed best building and communication practices including installing Energy Star appliances, using LED lighting, and conducting partner family home walkthroughs. A survey of 115 Habitat families revealed attitudes on energy and the environment, experience in their home, and demographic trends. Electricity and natural gas consumption was analyzed for these homes and compared to energy consumption in similar non-Habitat homes from the US Energy Information Agency???s Residential Energy Consumption Survey. In general, Habitat homeowners correctly assessed the relative energy efficiency of their homes. On average, Habitat homes consumed 25.86% less natural gas and 15.94% less electricity annually compared to demographically similar non-Habitat homes when controlling for home size, number of household members, and climate. Our models indicated significant drivers of household energy use, which led us to identify the following areas for intervention: nighttime thermostat settings, installing smart power strips, quantifying monetary losses associated with the use of secondary freezers and electric space heaters to discourage the purchase of excess appliances, and exploring gift-in-kind partnerships for energy-efficient window air conditioning units. Little relationship was found between attitudinal variables, such as the extent to which self-reported environmental concerns motivate behavior, and energy consumption. Fostering more frequent and extensive communication between HFHM affiliates and partner families is also encouraged based on feedback from both parties.