User Satisfaction with Innovative Cooling Retrofits in Sacramento Public Housing

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Date Published



How do tenants of public housing respond to retrofits to improve their comfort and energy use during the cooling season? In contrast to retrofits to improve heating or lighting, cooling retrofits have been little studied, despite extensive programs by utilities and housing authorities to reduce this end use. A local utility and a housing authority have been retrofitting their buildings with evaporative coolers, ground-source heat pumps and other cooling measures. As part of an overall evaluation of the project we have conducted interviews with the residents, building managers and project staff to determine satisfaction with the performance of the systems. The initial evaluation revealed glaring defects in the design and installation of the systems, and not surprisingly, there was great dissatisfaction by the tenants and staff with their performance. Subsequent interventions and improvements to the equipment solved the technical problems, but tenant satisfaction was mixed. Further surveys revealed misunderstandings by the tenants on the nature of the evaporative coolers, their control and operation—often due to poor thermostat design—and expectations for comfort and familiarity with the technology. A significant finding from the study has been that despite the technical potential for these retrofit measures, the improper implementation of the systems, maintenance requirements and user behavior can all greatly impact the projected energy savings.

Conference Name

Proceedings of the 1996 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, August 25-31, 1996

Year of Publication


Conference Location

Pacific Grove, CA


American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Washington, DC