The impact of occupant behaviour and use of controls on domestic energy use

This review was commissioned by the NHBC Foundation to examine previous research and knowledge on occupant behaviour and user interface design in homes.  An extensive literature review was conducted and information was also gathered from experts at BRE.

The review published in March 2012 examines how energy is used in the home and how the way people behave affects their energy consumption.  It explores the factors that affect energy use in the home and looks at the ways in which energy consumption can be reduced.  In particular, the review examines the importance of providing guidance, feedback and information to occupants, and the role of in-home displays such as smart meters.  It investigates behavioural science theories for changing behaviour and how these have been applied to energy use behaviours.  It also examines the differences between energy efficiency and energy conservation and asks if energy-efficiency measures go far enough to tackle energy reduction.

Occupants control the energy used in a home through controls and user interfaces.  These controls and interfaces can influence occupant behaviour.  The review, therefore, goes on to explore the influence of controls and user interfaces on domestic energy use.  It explores findings from previous research into how occupants typically use controls, their level of understanding and the information provided with controls.  The review also compares automated and manual control systems in dwellings and their advantages and disadvantages.

The review then explores future user interfaces and ‘smart homes’.  It examines how occupants will interact with future homes and what interfaces they are likely to use.  It highlights where smart home systems might add value and possible barriers to the widespread roll-out of smart homes.  It also examines recent consumer research on the latest low energy homes and outlines the concerns of consumer groups about the technologies and interfaces installed in these homes.

Research has shown that changing occupant behaviour will allow more energy to be saved than is possible through architectural and technical strategies alone. Differences in individual behaviour can produce large variations of more than three times the average energy consumption, even when differences in housing, appliances, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and family size are controlled for. It is, therefore, vital that more work is done to understand occupant behaviour and how to alter it to minimise wasted energy
and ensure energy is used efficiently.

More details and the Full Report

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