When participants are asked how best to save energy in the home, the most frequent response since the 1980s has been “turning off the lights”. Here, we use an online survey (N=1,418) to investigate why turning off the lights persists as a modal response despite decades of energy education promoting far more effective behaviors. We find that participants explain their choice of turning off lights or replacing bulbs with different heuristics. Participants who choose turning off the lights state that energy savings occur when an appliance is completely turned off. Alternatively, those who pick replacing inefficient light bulbs state that far less energy can be used for a given task.
Huge congratulations to co-authors Daniel Lundberg (SPEA Alum, now at Indiana Finance Authority) and Janine Tang (IU Law School).