Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent

Consumer Behaviour and Climate Action

Insights from a Randomised Control Trial Experiment in India’s Residential Cooling Sector

Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Apurupa Gorthi, Shikha Bhasin, Arnab K. Laha
September 2020 | Sustainable Cooling

Suggested Citation: Chaturvedi, Vaibhav, Apurupa Gorthi, Shikha Bhasin and Arnab K. Laha. 2020. Consumer Behaviour and Climate Action: Insights from a Randomised Control Trial Experiment in India’s Residential Cooling Sector. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.


This study seeks to inform the India Cooling Action Plan’s (ICAP) consumer awareness strategy. It undertakes a detailed survey and randomised control trial (RCT) experiment to understand the knowledge and behaviour of India’s AC users and test the effects of some key messages on consumers’ awareness levels and actions. The ICAP recommends a massive consumer awareness programme to inform and change AC user behaviour, as part of its larger aim to provide access to sustainable cooling to the masses while minimising its environmental effects. Further, the study recommends modifications needed in the government’s awareness campaign to bridge the information asymmetry among end-users.

Key Findings

  • The average number of preventive servicing undertaken by AC users in India is much lower than required.
  • Most AC users are unaware of the potential benefits of adopting good servicing practices (GSPs) and do not voluntarily engage in preventive servicing.
  • Most AC users do not want to spend more than 1.5 hours on servicing; and not more than INR 600 per servicing.
  • Both environmental and energy savings-related messages are successful in enhancing the awareness of the importance of servicing, although they do not effectively enhance technical awareness of GSPs or change behaviour.
  • Almost 85 per cent of the respondents in the baseline survey find technicians’ technical knowledge important or very important.
  • Consumers, however, are not well placed to evaluate the quality and depth of information being provided by technicians, leading to the problem of lemons in the market.
  • The interventions undertaken in this study were successful in enhancing the general awareness of the importance of servicing practices, but not in enhancing technical knowledge related to specific practices.

Consumer knowledge and AC servicing practices (N=432)

Source: Authors' Analysis

Key Recommendations

  • List the benefits of adopting preventive GSPs with a focus on the economic benefit while including both environmental and energy savings aspects in the communication strategy.
  • Emphasize that regular proactive servicing is a must.
  • Highlight that good basic preventive servicing needs at least two hours - the time expected for proper servicing.
  • Motivate customers to be ready to pay higher for good servicing.
  • Emphasize the importance of a good servicing technician.
  • Put in place a standardised certification system to differentiate good technicians from subpar ones.
The RCT interventions are successful in enhancing the awareness of the importance of servicing practices. However, they are not successful in either enhancing awareness at a technical level or increasing the number of servicings used, because achieving these objectives would require a large-scale awareness campaign—something that only the government or industry could do.

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