Real-time Energy Feedback Displays

22 Mar

According to the Sustain Blog Real-time energy feedback displays for the home are the current technology du jour, but these technologies face two burning questions: (1) what will incite their adoption? and (2) what will sustain their use?

The blog outlines that:

“It would seem that real-time energy displays are either being marketed directly to consumers (and the only ones interested at this point seem to be “green” consumers–so there is somewhat of a preaching to the choir effect here) or marketed through municipalities (e.g., the utility company offers them at a discount or as part of some promotion). However, the market space is saturated–there are far too many products with few value differentials. Is the promise of price savings around 10-15% off energy bills enough to motivate a large enough pool of consumers to make a purchase, particularly if this price savings is hinged on their behavior change? It seems that most people engage in the same set of evaluative/experimental activities. They go through their house and experiment with turning on and off appliances. Sometimes, this experimentation can be valuable, as found by this Eco-Dad:

After a few minutes I was up and running and monitoring how much I was using. I found the real eco bad guy – our TV, DVD, freeview box and media hub, all powered from one monster multi-plug socket. Tearing it from the wall like a man possessed, my monitor fell to zero pence.

I can’t believe my freeview box was costing that much money a year – and burning all that energy. So, the new rule is only to plug it in when we are ready to watch the telly, and with the money we’ve saved we can get away on a family break next year.

So, this initial learning period after installation is valuable; however, how useful was the display after the initial novelty of the display wore off? Similarly, though Eco-Dad promised to always unplug the entertainment center after watching TV, was this promise actually fulfilled? Consistently?

A related comment by William at the RSA Design and Behaviour blog:

I think these devices might be being thought of in the wrong way. A friend who has bought the Wattson says that it was most effective in the first few days, when the kids ran around the house turning things on and off and playing with the reading, learning what was consuming energy and discovering how much their phone chargers used. Once they’d learned those lessons they tended to look at the read-out much less.”

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