Inspire your neighbors by installing solar panels

Emerging research shows that the behavior of others can play a large role in our individual energy-related decisions. From the installation of solar panels to the purchase of the latest hybrid car, personal energy choices are continuously showing up as "behavioral contagions."

People are very likely to do what others do. When we see our friends, family and colleagues confidently stepping up to take an action we once considered, we’re more likely to follow suit or to explore the benefit they’re receiving from the action. When looking at solar panel adoption, a 2012 study found the influence of peer adoption to be quite sizable—increasing the probability of solar adoption in the zip code studied by 0.78 percentage points.

Other studies demonstrate that peer effects are stronger the closer the installations are to each other in space and time—meaning that people are more likely to install solar when their neighbors have done it very recently or live very near them.

Researchers in the space are still only beginning to uncover why "causal peer effects"—where choices by peers affect an individual—happen with energy-related decisions. Through the use of survey-based studies, researchers are exploring whether these effects occur through active or passive processes.

For example, one question researchers test is whether individuals adopt a technology after talking with existing adopters or just by observing others using the technology. A survey conducted by the University of Texas at Austin suggest that both processes shortened a person’s decision period for considering rooftop solar, but particularly active effects.

There are many benefits of installing solar panels on your home—including the ability to inspire your neighbors to do the same! Let's use the peer effect to challenge and encourage more people to make environmentally friendly decisions.

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