Reverse cycle air-conditioners and wellbeing outcomes: An analysis of Australian Capital Territory public housing

Mara Hammerle, Paul Burke

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Heating and cooling upgrades can have important implications for energy bills and thermal comfort in public housing. However, more could be known about the specific impacts of such upgrades, including on tenant wellbeing. This paper examines upgrades delivered to public housing properties in the Australian Capital Territory, focusing on effects in summer. We analyze impacts of replacing existing heaters with energy-efficient reverse cycle air-conditioners (RCACs). The principal research question is: by how much does access to indoor cooling increase wellbeing among public housing tenants? The analysis is based on a survey of 283 residents carried out in March–April 2021. We use factor analysis followed by linear regressions and an instrumental variable approach. Positive and significant impacts are found on measures of health and housing suitability, including the reported ability of residents to concentrate. Households with RCACs increased their summertime electricity bills by around A$40 relative to control households, although we find no significant impact on subjective reporting of energy bill stress. The study is among the first to apply rigorous econometric techniques to examine causal impacts of indoor cooling in residential settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    JournalEnergy and Buildings
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

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