Tuesday, November 14, 2023
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Inequalities across Cooling and Heating in Households: Energy Equity Gaps
Session ID
A4 - Lightning: Equity
Equity & Empowerment

Inequalities in heating and cooling ability within households can place low-income groups at higher risk of financial strain and temperature related illness or death (e.g., heat stroke or hypothermia). Understanding the degree of energy limiting behavior in low-income and vulnerable households is vital to eradicating energy poverty and associated negative health effects. We estimate energy limiting behavior in the cooling and heating sectors under a cold climate in the United States using a large residential electricity dataset and piecewise linear regression. Specifically, we estimate the outdoor temperatures at which households turn on and off their electricity-based cooling and heating units (i.e., cooling balance point and heating balance point) under a cold climate in northern Illinois, USA (N = 418,255 for cooling; N = 22,628 for electric heating). The estimated temperature comfort levels (balance points) are then compared across income groups to assess inequalities in the distributions of these balance points (i.e., energy equity gaps). We find that the cooling energy equity gap between low and high income groups is 3 °F, while the electric-based heating energy equity gap is 6 °F. In the cooling season, low-income households consume less electricity and use electricity for space cooling for a shorter period than high-income households; in the heating season, low-income households also consume less electricity but use electricity for space heating for a longer period than high-income households. Among low-to-middle-income households, our metric identifies 19,001 households (20%) in the cooling sector and 1,290 households (24%) in the heating sector who may be neglected by the traditional income-based energy poverty measure. Lastly, we find that black households have a cooling gap that is 17% wider than white households.

Supporting Document 1