Village Housing and Woodland Street Housing Efficiency Upgrades

One of 26 Village Houses selected for Efficiency Upgrades


The Green EDGE Fund provided an efficiency loan to fund a research project headed by two professors. The research aims to determine the effectiveness of three different methods of promoting energy efficiency. 31 of Oberlin College’s village homes were targeted, with 24 of them receiving one of the three treatments. 2 homes on Woodland Street received extensive efficiency upgrades from a separate loan but for the same research project.

Background Premise:

Professors Rumi Shammin (Environmental Studies) and Jordan Suter (Economics) sought “to gain a better understanding of the relative efficiency paybacks of three energy efficiency strategies, thus enabling policy makers and property owners to cost efficiently reduce energy consumption… Oberlin College provides a unique opportunity for isolating the influence of efficiency upgrades and behavioral changes.” A sample of 31 village homes were selected for the study with 24 receiving one of three treatments: programmable thermostats, caulking and attic insulation, or financial incentives for reducing energy use. The remaining homes serve as controls.

Cost-Benefit Estimation:

The total cost of purchasing and labor for the thermostats, insulation and caulking was $10,200. According to Shammin and Suter, the College pays approximately $835 for natural gas per month per house during heating season, and they are assuming a 15% reduction in gas usage due to the upgrades (an assumed 20% savings for insulation and 10% for the thermostats). This means a savings of 250 ccf per house per year, and based on a conservative estimate of $.50 per ccf, a total annual savings of $1500 for all houses. Assuming this assumed gas price does not change, with a 4% discount rate, estimated payback time is approximately 8 years.

Additional Benefits:

According to Shamming and Suter: “In addition to generating efficiency paybacks that are measurable, this project has a number of external benefits.  First, through the compilation of the energy use dataset for village housing, it will be possible to better estimate paybacks for future campus projects.  Second, the statistical methods that we develop can be applied to calculate actual savings from other projects such as the proposed large-scale changes in the Woodland Street homes.“ There are also numerous educational benefits including opportunities for research assistants to gain experience, the gained knowledge into personal energy use for the students receiving financial incentives, and the resulting paper soon to be published.