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Why Renters Use More Electricity

Dec 21, 2012
Source: 
(NYT Green)

Why do people buy inefficient refrigerators and clothes washers when spending a little more for an efficient one would save them money over time through lower electricity or water bills? There are a variety of reasons, but one that is persistently cited is that people are not necessarily buying these appliances for themselves. Often the buyer is a landlord, and the user is a tenant who does not make the choice but faces the consequences because he receives the energy bill.

Now research by Lucas W. Davis and David I. Levine, economists at the Haas School of Business of the University of California, Berkeley, have attached numbers to that hypothesis, calculating how much more likely an owner-occupied dwelling is to have an Energy Star appliance than a rental unit is.

The disparities are considerable. For example, in owner-occupied units, 45 percent of the washing machines are Energy Star-rated, but in rental units, only 17 percent are, the two researchers said, citing federal statistics. Even accounting for factors like household income, demographics, energy prices and weather, there are still big differences, they found.

Yet window air-conditioners owned by renters are very often Energy Star-rated models, they found. And when the electricity bill is paid by the landlord, that makes the landlord very pragmatic about the choice of appliance or light bulb.