Just a Sham? – An Empirical Investigation of Homeowners’ Misperception of Self-sufficiency in the Context of Fossil-fueled Heating in Germany


To reduce the consumption for space heating and hot water, a transition from individual fossil-fueled heating to district heating (DH) is crucial. Although DH can present a more cost-efficient and comfortable solution, private homeowners still prefer their individual fossil-fueled heating based on gas and oil. Since previous studies on households’ choices for heating systems provide insufficient explanation for this issue, we investigate a rather unexplored construct in this context, namely subjectively perceived self-sufficiency. Based on an explorative pre-study, we found that homeowners tend to feel more independent with their individual heating system rather than a connection to DH. Although technically speaking, this is not the case. To analyze this misperception, we conducted a standardized survey with 196 private homeowners using fossil-fueled heating.
Based on exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, we developed a measurement tool for subjective self-sufficiency consisting of two subscales: (1) independence from external influences, and (2) perceived control over the heating system. Next, we analyzed the influence of these subscales via structural equation modeling. Our results show that the first subscale has a significantly positive influence on homeowners’ satisfaction with their current heating system. In a second model focusing on possible psychographic and socio-demographic determinants, we calculated the mismatch between subjective self-sufficiency, measured via survey, and objective self-sufficiency, based on estimations drawn from technical literature. Our results provide new insights into the unexplored concept of subjective self-sufficiency and contribute to research on homeowners’ preference for individual heating systems as well as their misperceptions regarding fossil-fueled heating.

Author Information
Karen Wesely, TU Dortmund University, Germany
Hartmut Holzmüller, TU Dortmund University, Germany

Paper Information
Conference: ACSS2022
Stream: Sustainability

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon