Limit My Energy Use! An In-Situ Exploration of a Smart Home System Featuring an Adaptive Energy Threshold
Conference contribution, 2019
The ongoing increase of ‘smart’ home technologies could facilitate for households to shift energy demand to contribute to balancing increasingly fluctuating energy supply from renewable sources. Yet, although many smart home technologies support energy saving, few of the commercially available smart home systems actually facilitate demand shifting and instead highlight other features, such as home security or convenience. The study presented here aimed (i) designing a smart energy system that enables balancing energy demand and supply and (ii) exploring what happens when households are equipped with such a smart home system. In the system developed, called Ero, households’ energy use is related to the status of the energy system through a momentary power threshold and users can match their use of energy-reliant appliances to the threshold. Findings showed that a majority of the participants, in different ways, started to relate their energy use to the status of the energy system. Most of them appreciated the idea of having an energy threshold and some wanted stricter energy limitations. Yet, as the participants lived in small apartments and controlled a limited number of energy-reliant appliances only a few of them were able to make Ero an integrated part of everyday activities. Further, many of them questioned the extent to which their demand-shifting could contribute as their energy-reliant appliances were thought to not use much energy. Instead, the participants considered other paths towards a more sustainable energy system to be important, such as influencing decisions made by companies, politicians, and non-governmental organisations. The problem was however that Ero did not provide any support for how to influence beyond the individual household. To conclude, an energy focused smart home system can facilitate shifting energy demand and would be relevant for homes controlling bigger loads, such as electric vehicles or washing machines. Yet, such smart home systems cannot be considered a necessity in the quest for a more sustainable energy future.
research through design