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Why properly labelling light bulbs could mean a greener planet

Consumers are more willing to buy energy efficient light bulbs when the energy costs are clearly labelled, a new study has found.

Wändi Bruine de Bruin, Professor of Behavioural Decision-making at Leeds University Business School, was part of a team which explored how people choose light bulbs in order to understand the willingness of consumers to invest in energy efficient technologies.

The study was undertaken collaboratively with Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S.

The team conducted experiments with consumers, using a mobile lab to meet people where they shopped. Customers were asked to choose between a selection of different light bulbs. By observing the choices that people made, the researchers could infer which aspects were most important to customers when buying a bulb.

Energy efficient bulbs are more expensive than alternative ones and this has historically deterred people from buying them. However, when an estimated annual energy cost was placed on the label, consumers were more likely to give energy efficient bulbs a chance.

Professor de Bruin said: “Our study highlights the importance of providing understandable of energy efficiency labels.”

The study showed that not all consumers acted in the same way. Whilst lower income earners were more concerned about saving money at the point of purchase, high income consumers were more willing to invest in long term energy savings.

The study, which has been published in the journal Ecological Economics, suggests that the new labels implemented by the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012, which include operating cost information, are likely to help encourage the adoption of efficient light bulbs.

The research project was funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Climate and Energy Decision Making centre through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation in the US and Carnegie Mellon University.

Further information

Professor Wändi Bruine de Bruin is available for interview. Contact Guy Dixon, Senior Press Officer, on 0113 34 31028 or G.Dixon@leeds.ac.uk