The Impact of Behavioral and Geographic Heterogeneity on Residential-Sector Carbon Abatement Costs

Saptarshi Das, Eric Wilson, Eric Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus Citations


Analyses of monetary and emissions savings from residential efficiency upgrades usually neglect behavioral differences between consumers. Variations in behavior are often large: 13% of the U.S. population sets thermostats for cooling at 20 °C (68 °F) or lower and 15% at 25.5 °C (78 °F) or higher. Efficiency analyses should account for behavioral heterogeneity as well as variations in climate and housing characteristics. We model energy and economic savings of efficiency upgrades for U.S. single-family detached houses, accounting for differences in thermostat settings, climate zone, fuel prices, and home characteristics. We consider five efficiency interventions: wall insulation, attic insulation, air sealing, high-efficiency furnaces, and high-efficiency air conditioners. Energy and economic savings vary widely by consumer; the average net present value for wall insulation is $3,020 United States Dollar (USD), but considering heterogeneity, it has a 10th percentile value of -$231 and 90th percentile value of $5,000. Neglecting heterogeneity, technology upgrades can be prioritized from lower to higher carbon abatement costs: air conditioners, wall insulation, furnace, air sealing, and attic insulation. Accounting for heterogeneity reorders this prioritization, and consumer-specific conditions affect mitigation costs such that technologies are mixed in with one another and are no longer arranged one after another. These results indicate that interventions to improve efficiency should consider differences between consumers.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number110611
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy and Buildings
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-75633


  • Carbon abatement
  • Efficiency upgrades
  • Marginal abatement cost curve
  • Residential buildings


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