Smart thermostats in rental housing units: Perspectives from landlords and tenants
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Rental properties make up approximately 37% of the U.S. residential building stock and are responsible for 23% of the total energy consumption in this sector. Although this market has great potential for energy efficiency, implementing energy savings measures in this market face numerous challenges. In particular, one of the main challenges cited is the split incentive, limiting the potential motivation of rental property owners and tenants to invest in energy-efficient technologies. Smart thermostats have gained substantial interest and adoption in the past decade, and have been the subject of numerous studies in recent years. However, their adoption and use in the context of the rental housing market has not been considered. In this study, reviews posted on an online retailer's website (Amazon.com) were used as an unstructured source of information to evaluate the perspectives of landlords and tenants towards smart thermostats. In total, 31,790 reviews were collected for 14 commercially-available smart thermostats, and from these, 173 reviews were identified to be directly associated with rental units. These selected reviews were then analyzed and categorized based on the unique opportunities and challenges that were expressed. The majority of reviewers focused on usability aspects and expressed an interest in the advanced remote control functions of their purchased devices. Furthermore, our findings indicated that occupancy pattern learning capabilities were not of particular interest among this user group as compared to the non-rental property related reviews. These findings can inform product manufacturers and policymakers in their future interactions with stakeholders in the rental housing market and potentially increase adoption and hence, the adoption rate of energy efficiency measures.