Green on the rebound...

By Dr Paula Owen

It’s Energy Saving Week – and as we tend to around this time of year, we’ve done a bit of new research to garner some insights into the views and habits of the nation. This year it’s on the Rebound Effect (something we’ve looked at before here on the blog) – and there are some interesting findings.

In autumn 2011, the Energy Saving Trust surveyed over 2,000 people across the UK. People were asked, ‘if you were to save hundreds of pounds on your fuel bills by implementing efficiency measures, what would you do with the savings?’

Encouragingly, and potentially an indicator of the austere times we live in, half of us say we would save the money. Women seem slightly more inclined to save than men, but there is not a lot in it. And unsurprisingly, men are more interested in buying more gadgets.

Less encouragingly, only about one person in ten would be keen to invest that money into more energy efficiency products and measures. And another 12 per cent of people would go out and blow those savings on more energy using products.

It also seems as if the young (18-24) and the oldest age group (64+) are the most likely to tuck their savings away for a rainy day. And the Scots generally are the most likely to save their cash. People in the North East are the most spendthrift of the regions. Here one in four is likely to go out and spend the money on new TVs or more gadgets, but conversely they are also most likely to spend on energy efficiency products.

We then asked people if they were concerned about the running costs of appliances, and whether that influenced their purchasing decisions. The answer was unequivocal. Just over one in 10 were interested in the on-going running costs of their electrical appliances. And indeed, when questioned, 8 out of 10 people could not guess correctly the yearly running cost of a large, flat screen TV. It simply does not seem to be a concern; a very different situation to when people are buying a new car, where the fuel efficiency of the engine is a major consideration.

The biggest influence on people’s buying habits is the initial purchase cost, with half of respondents stating that is their main influence. Although of course, without taking into account the on-going yearly running costs of the appliance, this could well be a false economy.

We then went on to look at how willing people were to forego some added luxury in the pursuit of money saving. So, we asked whether they would be happy to forego taking extra ‘comfort’ in the form of higher or longer heating patterns, after they had installed measures, with the knowledge that this would reduce their potential fuel bill savings.

Here, one person in five surveyed were victim to the rebound effect – that is they are more interested in increasing their comfort levels by leaving their heating on for longer rather than maximising their bill savings. Encouragingly however, nearly three out of every four people stated they wanted to maximise their energy savings. This means the majority of the UK households do not want to fall victim to this new malaise.

This is of course heartening news, and the Energy Saving Trust is here to help – with lots of useful information and advice on how to squeeze the maximum savings out of your energy efficiency investments.

With our help we will ensure you will not become an unwitting casualty of the dreaded Rebound Effect! Why not visit our website and give our interactive tools such as the Home Energy Check or Water Calculator a go, or find out what grants and discounts may be available to you.