Are solar panels and energy efficiency 2 sides of the same roof? A new research report says yes.

A new research report from sunny San Diego uncovers some interesting connections between two major forces in the residential energy space: rooftop solar and energy efficiency.

The report, "Energy Efficiency Motivations and Actions of California Solar Homeowners," presents survey findings from 2,300 San Diego homeowners who had installed a rooftop solar system prior to June 2012, specifically looking at these households' perspectives on energy efficiency.

An overarching theme of the report — authored by the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE)— is that many homeowners see solar installations and energy efficiency efforts as part of the same equation.

For instance, a family that increases the efficiency of their household can consequently reduce the size of the solar array needed to offset their electricity use. In addition, homeowners are often interested in solar and efficiency for similar reasons (energy cost reduction, environmental concerns, and so on).

Indeed, the report finds that households that go solar are also highly likely to invest in some form of efficiency. A full 87 percent of surveyed solar homeowners in San Diego had made at least one of the efficiency investments listed below — and the majority of those actions were taken before or in conjunction with their solar installation.

87% of solar homeowners surveyed in San Diego had installed at least one efficiency upgrade. (Source: CCSE, 2014)

While these upgrades only represent installed efficiency measures (like efficient lighting and appliances), the researchers discovered through focus group interviews that solar homeowners were also likely to practice behavioral efficiency measures (like turning off appliances when not in use) in parallel with their adoption of solar power.

Likewise, CSE found common ground in homeowners' motivations for installing solar and their motivation for investing in efficiency. In both cases, as shown in the tables below, the most important motivations were lowering their utility bill and reducing reliance on conventional energy resources.  

It's useful to note that the tables above only represent consumers' stated motivations. It's previously been shown that social and community factors — like knowing that one's neighbors are taking similar actions — are also powerful forces (though often unstated by consumers) in motivating both energy efficiency and solar adoption.

The report offers a number of additional data points that tighten the motivational and behavioral connection between solar and efficiency. Insights like these may help customer-focused energy providers understand and serve their consumers better in the coming years, as homeowners' interest in solar and efficiency continues to soar.


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