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Considering the (in)effectiveness of residential energy feedback systems
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Considering the (in)effectiveness of residential energy feedback systems

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Energy feedback systems, particularly residential energy feedback systems (REFS), have emerged as a key area for HCI and interaction design. However, we argue that HCI researchers, designers and …

Energy feedback systems, particularly residential energy feedback systems (REFS), have emerged as a key area for HCI and interaction design. However, we argue that HCI researchers, designers and others concerned with the design and evaluation of interactive systems should more strongly consider the ineffectiveness of such systems, including not only potential limitations of specific types of REFS or REFS in general but also potentially counterproductive or harmful effects of REFS. In this paper we outline research questions and issues for future work based on critical gaps in REFS research identified from (i) a review of REFS literature and (ii) findings from two qualitative studies of commercial home energy monitors.

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  • 1. Some considerations on the(in)effectiveness of residential energyfeedback systemsJames Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric PaulosHuman Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University Living Environments Lab
  • 2. Energy is a hot topic.James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 3. ...especially energy feedback. kWJames Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 4. ...especially residential energy feedback. kWJames Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 5. Energy savings of 7-20% have been attributed to residential energy feedback systems (REFS) (as well as negative reductions). Darby, S. (2006). The effectiveness of feedback on energy consumption. A review for DEFRA of the literature on metering, billing, and direct displays. Fischer, C. (2008). Feedback on household electricity consumption: a tool for saving energy? Energy Efficiency, 1:79-104.James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 6. kW ? 7-20% reductionJames Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 7. REFS lit review:Critical research gaps
  • 8. REFS lit reviewAbrahamse, W., Wokje, A., Steg, L., Vlek, C., & Rothengatter,T. (2005). A review of intervention studies aimed at householdenergy conservation. Journal of Environmental Psychology,25(3):273–291.Darby, S. (2006). The effectiveness of feedback on energy con-sumption. A review for DEFRA of the literature on metering, bill-ing, and direct displays.Fischer, C. (2008). Feedback on household electricity consump-tion: a tool for saving energy? Energy Efficiency, 1:79-104.Froehlich, J., Findlater, L., & Landay, J. (2010). The design ofeco-feedback technology. In Proc. of CHI ‘10,James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 9. Critical gaps in energy feedback research1. Effects on specific behaviors, attitudes and understandings2. The effects of feedback on individual experience3. Social and cultural factors related to feedback4. Effects on consumption in terms of everyday practice5. Broader critiques of energy feedback James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 10. Critical gaps in energy feedback research1. Effects on specific behaviors, attitudes and understandingsQ: What specific behaviors account for the measured (+/-) reductions? James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 11. Critical gaps in energy feedback research2. The effects of feedback on individual experienceQ: Is the implemented system subjectively experienced as pleasing, engaging, desirable, useful? James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 12. Critical gaps in energy feedback research3. Social and cultural factors related to feedbackQ: How does feedback affect social relations within the home?? James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 13. Critical gaps in energy feedback research4. Effects on consumption in terms of everyday practiceQ: How is the system symbolically and materially “domesticated” or appropriated over time by users? James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 14. Critical gaps in energy feedback research5. Broader critiques of energy feedbackQ: What is (and is not) meant by “effective”?Q: What precisely are “sustainable energy systems” attempting to sustain? James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 15. Critical gaps in energy feedback research1. Effects on specific behaviors, attitudes and understandings2. The effects of feedback on individual experience3. Social and cultural factors related to feedback4. Effects on consumption in terms of everyday practice5. Broader critiques of energy feedback James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 16. Studies & Methods
  • 17. Kill A Watt PowerCost Monitor
  • 18. Studies and methods Study #1 (Kill A Watt + price charts)+ 8 participants; 8 households; SF Bay Area, CA+ 1-3 hour pre- and post-interviews + price/logging activities Study #2 (PowerCost monitor)+ 9 participants; 5 households; Pittsburgh, PA+ 1-3 hour pre- and post-interviews James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 19. Findings
  • 20. Findings | Baseline Consumption People discovered and learned their “baseline” ...but no one tried to reduce it.James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 21. Findings | Awareness & EngagementP2: It’s still in my mind even when it’s not there. I’m still gonna be thinkingabout it. It’s like a reminder.I: How is this different than, say, a sign?P2: Well… this is, like, real. Maybe they can put a sign up there and re-mind me but this can track what I do. It’s really on the meter!James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 22. Findings | Awareness & EngagementNo one used theKill A Watt.James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 23. Findings | Actual and anticipated behavioral change P5: I knew the dryer used a lot but I didn’t know it used 5kW. I didn’t know it used that much. P6: (P5’s wife): I guess I feel a little bad now when I turn on the dryer, but, I mean, I’m not gonna not wash my clothes!James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 24. Findings | Difficulty fine-tuning consumption for conservation I: Studies have shown that people sometimes reduce consumption by 10-20% from using energy monitors like this one… P4: [Interrupts] Well, let’s see. If I replaced all these [bulbs in kitchen fixture] with CFLs [compact fluorescent light bulbs]….that’d be about 10%. I’m not sure where I’d look next to cut 400 watts. I’d have a hard time figuring out where I could save another 400 watts on average.James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 25. ImplicationsHCI and REFS research
  • 26. Implications | Design detailsEX: Information emphasized > Maintaining versus reducing the baselineEX: Precision and resolution > What devices are important & unimportant James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 27. Implications | Non-negotiable interactions and practices“I’m not gonna not wash [or dry] my clothes!”Considering cutting, trimming, switching, upgrading, etc.James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 28. Implications | Identifying limitations and considering alternativesTwo categories for future empirical REFS research:1. Identifying and categorizing negotiable and non-negotiable interac-tions and practices2. Identifying upperbounds on consumption reductionJames Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 29. Implications | Unintended effects: Sustaining the unsustainable?Does monitoring devices negate more substantial sustainable behaviors?Such as switching or relinquishing devices?James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 30. Implications | Alternative aimsYes! Reduce consumption levels, but also...AestheticsPleasurable engagementSymbolic value (e.g., projecting sustainable lifestyles and values)Conversation piecesCreativity and exploration...(See Pierce et al., 2008, Energy aware dwelling: A critical survey of interaction design foreco-visualizations)James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 31. Implications | Alternative aims REFS is an important and growing area... .. but equally we should consider *in*effectiveness in design. (and for all areas of IxD, HCI and interactive systems design!)James Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab
  • 32. A major unexplored question is: What is affecting the effects of REFS? kW ? 7-20% reductionJames Pierce | Chloe Fan | Derek Lomas | Gabriela Marcu | Eric Paulos Living Environments Lab