In-home energy displays can spark behavior change

In-home energy displays can spark behavior change

Consumers will cut energy use if they can see what they’re using.

You know the price of items you grab from grocery store shelves, so you’re not surprised by the total at checkout.

With electricity and natural gas, it’s as if you go to checkout each month with no clue what your total will be.

We asked our Utility Pulse™ ’13 study participants, “How would having access to more detailed information about the energy you are using (perhaps via some new in-home display) impact you?”

A clear majority (57 percent) said they would look at it regularly and use the information to help them make changes to reduce their energy consumption.

There are plenty of analogies to illustrate why this makes sense.

Dieters know they’re going to weigh themselves and get that feedback, so they watch their calories and carbs.

If you can see the energy you’re using on an in-home display, you are likely to turn off some lights, unplug unused appliances and chargers, and look for other ways to moderate your bill at the end of the month.

Without that feedback, there’s no information to inspire or inform that effort.

According to a 2010 report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy:

  • Energy use feedback can help households gain control over their energy use practices, reduce the amount of wasted energy and reduce electricity consumption by 4 to 12 percent
  • To realize potential savings, advanced meters must be used in conjunction with in-home (or online) displays and well-designed programs that successfully inform, engage, empower and motivate people
  • Providing households with persistent feedback has resulted in sustained savings over time

But the tools and information must be easy to use. We know, from our Pulse research, that only about a third of programmable thermostat owners have actually programmed their thermostat. That’s because too many smart thermostats are too complicated.

We’re beginning to see many easier-to-use alternatives. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat programs itself based on usage patterns “so you don’t have to.” Developed by Tony Fadell, the inventor of the iPod, the Nest can also be adjusted by smartphone or an Internet connection.

“Nest has six sensors that can determine things like when you’re away from home,” wrote Katherine Boehret in her Wall Street Journal product review. “Suddenly, I can’t imagine my house without a Nest.”

In-home displays can spark behavior change, but they’ve got to be easy to understand and easy to operate.


Posted on

August 23, 2013

About the Author

Jim Lyza

Jim is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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