Heating Practices and Non-Technical Energy Saving Potentials

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:12
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Anna WOLFF, Institut für Soziologie LMU München, Germany
Bernhard GILL, Institut für Soziologie LMU München, Germany
Ines WEBER, Institut für Soziologie LMU München, Germany
Johannes SCHUBERT, Institut für Soziologie LMU München, Germany
Michael SCHNEIDER, Institut für Soziologie LMU München, Germany
Space heating of private households is usually described as technically or economically determined:  Either – by architects – in terms of standard users with standardized heating needs. Or – by economists – in terms of rationally calculating individuals that make their choices according to changes in prices or income. We argue that these descriptions are both insufficient, since heating is embedded in habitualised patterns of everyday practice, which are rather stable over time (i.e. inelastic in respect to price and income changes) but different between households (i.e. not following a universal standard). These behavioral patterns are described as “habitus” in the sense of Bourdieu, i.e. as schemata of perception, classification and action.

Our quantitative data contains the actual energy use of 130 households as well as the calculated energy requirements of their apartments (which depends on physical insulation, size and location of the flats within the building). Combining these data, we can distinguish two factors determining energy consumption: “behavior of the household” versus “physical energy requirement of the flat”, both with a rather high variation (VAR > 0.4).

Additionally we interviewed 50 of these households with standardized as well as open questions concerning their energy use, individual heating, and ventilation comfort. We then seek to explain the heating behavior with a special focus on heating comfort, need for fresh air, ease of handling, and frugality. Controls comprise technical knowledge, time spent in flat etc. On this basis organizational non-technical energy saving potentials should be identified. This may result in a more targeted moving of households with behaviorally induced high energy spending to better insulated flats – thus mitigating “fuel poverty” as well as climate change.