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Testing the Effect of Defaults on the Thermostat Settings of OECD Employees

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  • Zachary Brown

Abstract

Default options have been shown to affect behavior in a variety of economic choice tasks, including health care and retirement savings. Less research has tested whether defaults affect behavior in the domain of energy efficiency. This study uses data from a randomized controlled experiment in which the default settings on office thermostats in an OECD office building were manipulated during the winter heating season, and chosen thermostat setting observed over a six week period. Using difference-in-differences, panel, and censored regression models (to control for maximum allowable thermostat settings), we find that small decreases in the default led to a greater reduction in chosen settings than large decreases. We also find that office occupants who are more apt to adjust their thermostats prior to the intervention were less susceptible to the default. We find no evidence that offices with multiple occupants displayed different patterns in thermostat choices than single-occupant offices. We conclude that this kind of intervention can increase building energy efficiency, and discuss broader policy implications of our findings.

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Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00382.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00382

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  4. Löfgren, Åsa & Martinsson, Peter & Hennlock, Magnus & Sterner, Thomas, 2012. "Are experienced people affected by a pre-set default option—Results from a field experiment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 66-72.
  5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Choices, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 67-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
  8. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson & Andreas Fuster, 2011. "Expectations as Endowments: Evidence on Reference-Dependent Preferences from Exchange and Valuation Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1879-1907.
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  10. repec:reg:wpaper:320 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Rachel Croson & Nicolas Treich, 2014. "Behavioral Environmental Economics: Promises and Challenges," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(3), pages 335-351, July.

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