Household norms and their role in reducing household electricity consumption



Researchers have only recently begun to investigate the role of the norms of the household or family group in energy-efficiency decisions. These researchers have demonstrated that these norms can influence the behaviour and attitudes of children within the household. We contribute to their findings by providing a characterization of the use of household norms in household decisions about electricity efficiency. For our qualitative research, we conducted focus groups with three different household types: (1) share houses/young couples with no children; (2) households with children; and (3) empty nest/elderly households in three regional centres in New South Wales, Australia (total of 76 respondents in nine focus groups). Specifically, we found that household norms were evident in the decision-making process through rules and expectations about behaviour and the use of sanctions to enforce or shaped that behaviour. We identified several drivers of household norms including a household member taking the role of ‘efficiency champion’ and the occurrence of critical incidents in the household. In addition, we found that household members try to establish household norms to socialize household members with the goal of the intergenerational transmission of desirable behaviours. Based on these observations, we conclude that household members employ norms to regulate and reduce their electricity consumption, and as a mechanism for consumer socialization. As such, our findings are important for marketers and policy makers tasked with regulating household consumption.