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Consumer Response and Behaviour - Environmental Monitoring to inform Social Research


Citation Energy Endeavours Consortium Consumer Response and Behaviour - Environmental Monitoring to inform Social Research, ETI, 2014. https://doi.org/10.5286/UKERC.EDC.000600.
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Author(s) Energy Endeavours Consortium
Project partner(s) PRP Architects Limited, UCL Energy Institute, Frontier Economics, The Technology Partnership, The Peabody Trust, National Centre for Social Research, Hitachi Europe
Publisher ETI
DOI https://doi.org/10.5286/UKERC.EDC.000600
Download SSH_SS1501_8.pdf document type
Associated Project(s) ETI-SS1501: Smart Systems and Heat (SSH) Programme - Consumer Behaviour Study
Associated Dataset(s) No associated datasets
Abstract The delivery of consumer energy requirements is a key focus of the Smart Systems and Heat Programme. The Consumer Response and Behavior Project will identify consumer requirements and predict consumer response to Smart Energy System proposals, providing a consumer focus for the other Work Areas. This project involved thousands of respondents providing insight into consumer requirements for heat and energy services, both now and in the future. Particular focus was given to identifying the behaviour that leads people to consume energy - in particular heat and hot water. This £3m project was led by PRP Architects, experts in the built environment. It involved a consortium of academia and industry - UCL Energy Institute, Frontier Economics, The Technology Partnership, The Peabody Trust, National Centre for Social Research and Hitachi Europe

This report combines the two Deliverables: D5.4(iii) In-Home Monitoring Technical Report and D5.10(ii) Health and Safety Good Practice Report into one

Environmental monitoring (the use of technology to automatically record physical, measurable conditions – e.g. temperature, relative humidity, energy consumption, etc.) has been a common part of research into energy use in buildings over recent years, used particularly to record the energy performance and environmental conditions. However, monitoring devices are now increasingly being employed alongside social research methods to assist a better understanding of the way occupants behave in a building and how they interact with their energy systems. This report draws out the lessons learnt from these emerging activities, discusses the design challenges and value of delivering an environmental monitoring project and focusses in some detail on the many practicalities that need to be considered for the successful implementation of environmental monitoring in homes.

Two projects were examined for this report:
  1. 30 Homes – a longitudinal (year long) study of 30 homes in Yorkshire, Manchester, Norfolk and London.
  2. HEMS Field Trial – a three-month study of 12 homes in London to consider the ease of installation and participants’ adaptability to two different smart heating control systems
The following conclusions could be drawn:
  • Participant retention – one of the most important successes of both projects has been the positive relationships formed with the participants and their retention. This was because of
    • Open and effective communication
    • Clear agreements
    • Small teams assigned to each participant
    • Customer care and remuneration
    • Recruitment through other activities
  • Logistics - implementation of effective procedures, forms and records by a dedicated project management team guaranteedsmooth running of the project.
  • Health and safety best practice – robust health and safety procedures, installation guidance, well-rehearsed incident protocol, training of staff and provision of safety documentation for participants ensured that the team was always equipped to work safely and participants were never at risk
  • Data protection – a detailed data protection protocol for the wider project informed the design of a robust system for maintaining anonymity of participants for any purpose other than direct contact, ensuring secure management of personal data further built trust between the participants and the project team.
  • Engagement with suppliers and manufacturers – effective engagement with the manufacturers and suppliers of equipment ensured that stock levels and lead-in times were never an issue; problems that arose were quickly solved.
  • Forensic analysis – integrated data analysis / interview preparation meetings (researcher, analyst, surveyor, etc.) synthesising data insights with social and technical insights.
  • Data analysis – building an understanding of the conditions and behaviour within the monitored homes; and identifying whether occupants were correctly reporting their energy use behaviours. In addition data from all the homes (although the samples were small) was aggregated and cross-compared helping to provide hints of patterns across the stock.
There are a number of challenges and practicalities to be considered in the preparation and for the successful implementation of an environmental monitoring project in domestic properties
  • Ensuring a dequate lead-in time
  • Defining the Research Aims
  • Establishing the Monitoring Brief
  • Intellectual Property (IP)
  • What could not be monitored
  • Remote or in-situ data downloads
  • Health and Safety – a single incident could jeopardise both the future of the project and the reputation of ETI
  • Participant acceptability
  • Managing additional visits
  • Appointments / logistics
  • Data Management
What ought to be done differently in future, and considerations for scaling up are also addressed.

This report was prepared for the ETI by the consortium that delivered the project in 2013 and whose contents may be out of date and may not represent current thinking.