Technologies are only as effective as the people interacting with them. By understanding the behavioral factors in HVAC, we can design better systems and buildings, and find ways to influence performance-defining behaviors.


Has it ever occurred to you that air conditioners would work much more efficiently if it weren’t for the people involved?

Always twiddling with the thermostat, or installing things incorrectly, or choosing the wrong technology for the application or failing to maintain things as manufacturers specify. If this thought has occurred to you, then you may have an appreciation for WCEC’s HVAC Behavioral Research Initiative (HBRI), which believes that people behave the way they do for a reason, and understanding that reason is key. WCEC has assembled a team of behavioral and social scientists to address some of these issues.

This innovative team is beginning to look at the ways in which human factors influence the performance of AC systems in the field. By understanding these factors, we can both design better systems and buildings, and find ways to influence performance-defining behaviors. The HBRI team is working with other WCEC researchers to ensure that technologies developed and demonstrated are aligned with the goals and aspirations of users and providers, as manifest in their behavior. The team is also undertaking several discrete research projects to shed light on human behavior and how it can be influenced.


As an independent research center our goal is to first understand the key issues with regards to behavior and HVAC technology. Ultimately, we work to answer these questions:


  • How do we as consumers view HVAC technologies?
  • How do contractors view HVAC technologies and how do they convey their recommendations to customers?
  • What are the primary motivations that may influence someone to choose energy efficient technologies?
  • Does peer influence and knowledge of energy-use/budget motivate people to change their energy use behavior?


WCEC is currently studying the behavior of contractors in the field and their views regarding HVAC technologies and maintenance. In addition, WCEC is also determining the motivations of energy users through multiple in-home energy display studies (IHED).



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