Assessment of household appliance surveys collected with Amazon Mechanical Turk
Energy researchers need data on residential appliances to make effective recommendations for reducing energy consumption. For some products, however, traditional data sources do not have sufficient detail. Online surveys can provide a less expensive alternative for data collection, but the accuracy of these surveys is still unclear. Here, we compare the results of Amazon Mechanical Turk online surveys of refrigerators, freezers, televisions, and ceiling fans to the nationwide Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) deployed by the US Energy Information Administration. To account for differences in demographic distributions between the online survey results and the general population, we weighted the results using standard cell weighting and raking techniques, as well as a combination of these, termed “hybrid.” The weighted results gave a distribution of product ownership that was reasonably close to RECS, albeit with small, statistically significant differences in some cases. The cell weighting method provided a slightly better agreement with RECS than the other two approaches. We recommend online surveys as an efficient and cost-effective way of gathering in-home use data on appliances that are not adequately covered by existing data sources.