Saving Energy with Neighborly Behavior: Energy Efficiency for Multifamily Renters and Homebuyers

White Paper


Kate Farley and Susan Mazur-Stommen


Tenant engagement programs encourage the people who live in a multifamily property to change their behavior in order to achieve a goal. These programs are an attractive option for owners or managers who want to improve energy efficiency. In this report, we assess the key features of existing programs, make recommendations for improvements that housing providers and advocates can use immediately, and outline a wish list for the future.

In late 2013 and early 2014, ACEEE conducted a series of surveys and interviews to examine the current landscape of tenant engagement programs in the United States. The focus of this report is on tenants living in multifamily buildings that operate energy efficiency programs. We were also interested in seeing if any programs use similar tactics to target people who own their homes, either units in multifamily buildings or single-family houses. We found that tenant engagement programs are much more likely to be found in properties with primarily low-income residents. We also found that many programs rely heavily on the mass information campaign, a technique that has been shown to be largely ineffective. However, a number of the programs we surveyed use more complex behavioral techniques like incentives, challenges, and teams of peer role models. We recommend that tenant engagement programs use techniques like community-based social marketing (CBSM) to ensure that the programs are tailored to the targeted community.