Boundedly rational consumers, energy and investment literacy, and the display of information on household appliances

J.E. Blasch, Massimo Filippini, Nilkanth Kumar

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is an ongoing debate how to increase the adoption of energy-efficient light bulbs and household appliances in the presence of the so-called ‘energy efficiency gap’. One measure to support consumers’ decision-making towards the purchase of more efficient appliances is the display of energy-related information in the form of energy-efficiency labels on electric consumer products. Another measure is to educate consumers in order to increase their level of energy and investment literacy. Thus, two questions arise when it comes to the display of energy-related information on appliances: (1) What kind of information should be displayed to enable consumers to make rational and efficient choices? (2) What abilities and prior knowledge do consumers need to possess to be able to process this information? In this paper, using a series of (recursive) bivariate probit models and three samples of 583, 877 and 1375 households from three major Swiss urban areas, we show how displaying information on the future energy consumption of electrical appliances in monetary terms (CHF), rather than in physical units (kWh), increases the probability that an individual makes a calculation and identifies the appliance with the lowest lifetime cost. In addition, our econometric results suggest that individuals with a higher level of energy and, in particular, investment literacy are more likely to perform an optimization rather than relying on a decision-making heuristic. These individuals are also more likely to identify the most (cost-)efficient appliance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-58
Number of pages20
JournalResource and Energy Economics
Early online date13 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


We are grateful to the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) for financial support. Furthermore, this research is part of the activities of SCCER CREST, which is financially supported by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). Neither SFOE nor CTI were responsible for the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data or in the writing of this article. The content does not necessarily represent the official views of SFOE and CTI. All omissions and remaining errors are our responsibility. Furthermore, we would like to thank the utilities who cooperated in sending out invitations to their customers to participate in our household survey. Comments from two anonymous referees as well as from participants of the 2016 Münster Energy Conference (MEC) and the 2016 IAEE Conference in Bergen are gratefully acknowledged.

FundersFunder number
Kommission für Technologie und Innovation
Bundesamt für Energie


    • Bounded rationality
    • Energy label
    • Energy literacy
    • Energy-efficiency
    • Energy-using durables
    • Online randomized controlled trial


    Dive into the research topics of 'Boundedly rational consumers, energy and investment literacy, and the display of information on household appliances'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this