Department of Business Development and Technology

Testing smarter control and feedback with users: Time, temperature and space in household heating preferences and practices in a Living Laboratory

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  • Benjamin K. Sovacool
  • Jody Osborn, Energy Systems Catapult
  • ,
  • Mari Martiskainen, University of Sussex
  • ,
  • Matthew Lipson, Energy Systems Catapult

Transitioning to more efficient and less carbon-intensive heating is a monumental policy challenge in the United Kingdom. However, very few households in the UK—and perhaps even elsewhere—have actual experience with state-of-the-art smart heating systems that may utilize enhanced control or feedback. Drawing from a unique sample of actual adopters of smart heating, this study closely examines the heating preferences, practices, and profiles of homes when they are given smarter heating systems. The study utilizes qualitative household data from the Energy System Catapult's Living Laboratory of 100 smart homes in Birmingham (West Midlands), Bridgend (Wales), Manchester (Greater Manchester), and Newcastle (Northumberland). We examine the heating preferences and profiles of participants, with findings inductively organized around the themes of temperature, including tradeoffs between comfort, cost, and value; time, including the utility of heat scheduling; and space, including zonal heating controls. We also discuss patterns of learning, the emergence of environmental values, and issues of discomfort. We conclude by commenting on important distinctions between radiant and ambient heat, as well as between scheduled and on-demand heat. The main findings are 1) tradeoffs between comfort, value and cost occur when it comes to smart heating; 2) people want different numbers of warm hours in their homes at very different times; 3) households chose to heat different numbers of rooms; and 4) there are other non-monetary and non-functional aspects of smart heating that households value.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102185
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

    Research areas

  • Big data, Energy feedback, Energy practices, Heating and cooling, Living lab, Smart energy, Smart homes

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