The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has set up a programme of work to understand the potential for smarter heating controls to save energy. As part of this DECC wished to understand what people need from their heating controls so as to improve their understanding of how emerging technologies could best meet these needs. This research gathered requirements for smarter heating controls by studying how people use their existing heating controls.
The study found that a number of factors influenced behavior such as functionality, usability and accessibility; beliefs and understanding around efficient use of heating; awareness of the cost implications of different behaviours; and a tension between comfort and spend. It also found that participants broadly fell into the following five user types: Rationers, Ego-centric, Hands off, Planners and Reactors.
The key requirements for heating controls were the ability to monitor spending on heating, control the temperature at different times in different rooms from one panel, turn the heating on before getting home and to see the current state of the heating system in different parts of the home.
Implications for smarter heating controls are that participants were interested in minimising waste but were not always sure how to achieve this. Analysis of ‘wasteful’ behaviours suggested that automation could help minimise waste, but it was relatively unpopular. Participants wanted more rather than less active involvement in their heating, with a greater degree of control. A key future requirement of smarter heating controls would allow users to monitor the spending consequences of their use of heating and make informed decisions accordingly. Analysis also suggested that remote and zonal control of smarter heating controls could be combined with optional automation to build trust.
More information can be found on the Smarter Heating Controls Research Programme page.