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Do intelligent heating controls out-smart ordinary users?

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conference contribution
posted on 2016-06-22, 12:47 authored by Becky Mallaband, Victoria HainesVictoria Haines, Ashley Morton
Nearly a third of UK gas and electricity is used in homes, of which 80% is for space heating and hot water provision. Rising consumer bills, concerns about climate change and the surge in personal digital technology use has provoked the development of intelligent domestic heating controls. Whilst the need for having suitable control of the home heating system is essential for reducing domestic energy use, these heating controls rely on appropriate user interaction to achieve a saving and it is unclear whether these ‘smart’ heating controls enhance the use of domestic heating or reduce energy demand. This paper describes qualitative research undertaken with a small sample of UK householders to understand how people use new heating controls installed in their homes and what the requirements are for improved smart heating control design. The paper identifies, against Nielsen’s usability heuristics, the divergence between the householder’s use, understanding and expectations of the heating system and the actual design of the system. Digital and smart heating control systems should be designed to maximise usability so that they can be effectively used for efficient heating control by all users. The research highlights the need for development of new systems to readdress the needs of users and redefine the system requirements.


This work forms part of the DEFACTO project (EP/K00249X/1) funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.



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4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency


MALLABAND, B., HAINES, V. and MORTON, A., 2016. Do intelligent heating controls out-smart ordinary users? To be presented at: BEHAVE 2016: The 4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency, 8th-9th September 2016, Coimbra, Portugal.


Energy for Sustainability Initiative of the University of Coimbra (EfS - UC) and the Portuguese Energy Agency (ADENE)


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This conference paper is published with kind permission of the conference organiser.


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Coimbra, Portugal

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