Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings


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Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings

The engagement mechanisms utilized provided a means to reinforce positive attitudes within these households to influence elements related to their energy culture, as articulated in the following sections. To assess the impact of the project on household energy practices, households were asked to assess their level of actions towards household energy management before and after the project. Multiple project interactions, particularly the web portal, weekly electricity report, project tools, and thermostat scheduling were identified as helpful for changing practices.

The information provided in the interactions resulted in a more proactive approach to household energy consumption. Perceived energy management practices before and after the project remained high. Changes in practices involved shifting discretionary loads to off-peak, using thermostat programming and appliance timers, highlighting changes in rhythms of consumption [ 77 ], and increased energy management [ 48 ]. However, limited project devices for management e. Overall, participants valued direct control over their energy management and this was restated during the interviews.

These results highlight the ability of these engagement mechanisms, particularly the web portal and weekly electricity reports, to increase perceived CDM actions by households through information provision. An opportunity is created for future research to analyze the impact of reported increased awareness and action levels on consumption levels. Throughout the programme, participants had opportunities to upgrade their material culture. Upgrades were mostly limited to small-device replacements e.

Similar to Attari et al. Further, some households identified socioeconomic pressures i. Despite the newer home build, some households did make notable changes in their material culture, including smart home devices and automation technologies, solar panels, smart appliances, and large device removal e.

There were even changes in actions related to practices. For example, some participants purchased and increased the use of fans during the evenings instead of the air conditioner. As articulated by Mackenzie-Mohr et al. Further, these motivations and barriers can highlight underlying factors both internal and external influencing the overall energy culture [ 19 , 36 , 40 ]. To assess how underlying motivations changed over time, the motivations for participation identified in the interviews were compared to the original motivations reported in the initial survey.

Some motivations remained at similar levels while others decreased over time Fig. The motivations to save money and to reduce the amount of energy consumed were rated the highest by most respondents at the end of the project. This further emphasizes the value of financial feedback for these households. As participant 3 stated:.

Which, ultimately at the end of the day yields the same result; because electricity costs money, and if you're saving in one area then you're saving in the other. Motivation ratings at the initial survey and final interview. The main barriers were lifestyle and convenience, whereas the main motivations for energy management were to save money and to receive more feedback and information on their consumption levels.

These barriers and motivations influenced the engagement with mechanisms throughout the project.

How to Monitor Electricity Usage in Real-Time for the IoT

Participants were asked to rate the effectiveness of the engagement mechanisms experienced in this study, with the results summarized in Fig. It is clear that certain mechanisms were perceived more positively than others; however, certain motivations and barriers related to home energy management influenced these perceptions. The following sections outline main motivations and barriers for home energy management and how they influenced engagement with behaviour-based project interactions the web portal, the weekly electricity report, goal setting, webinar, reminder emails, and the incentivized control programme.

Throughout the interviews, participants highlighted lifestyle and convenience as substantial barriers for utilizing these smart tools for energy management. Certain participants were not willing to give up their standards of comfort, such as participant Because I need to use it during the day because it easier, I will just go ahead and use it during the day.

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The barrier of convenience was highly articulated in the lack of acceptance and use of the scheduling function. This feature promoted peak shifting practices for discretionary loads through circuit control. Since the scheduling feature conflicted with lifestyle e. Some participants mentioned they would override the feature, showing how norms of convenience inhibited the use of this energy management tool. Because if I want to use the dishwasher, I will use the dishwasher. Because we use [our appliances] when we find it convenient. So I left it off and I never used it.

U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis

Although the project provided opportunities for scripting behaviour through technological changes, household standards for energy use remained prominent barriers to engagement. The participant feedback aligns with Leadbetter and Swan [ 85 ], where appliance control has limited abilities to modify demand before negatively impacting comfort.

This emphasizes how norms can highly impact energy practices and the adoption of smart home energy management tools. Another set of substantial barriers to participation was technical issues. In particular, these participants identified accessibility issues and difficulty in learning to use the web portal. This was also the case for the scheduling function, including accessibility issues for making quick setting changes.

In particular, participant 15 stated:. That was really difficult to do on the web portal. I think that is the part that would need the most work [ As a contextual factor, household profiles were identified as a substantial barrier to energy management. As identified by Ford et al. Household changes were identified through the interviews and most households expressed consumption fluctuations due to household population changes. Like more people are using things now. It all comes down to balancing convenience versus efficiency. Those with newborns and adults home for childcare emphasized the importance of maintaining comfort during this time.

As a result of changing profiles, homes experienced changes in norms and practices surrounding energy management. Household dynamics and competing attitudes may influence the overall conservation [ 12 , 28 , 29 , 87 ], so this was probed in the interview. Existing studies have highlighted tremendous opportunities for residential energy savings by engaging children [ 87 , 88 , 89 ].

Participants highlighted that energy management became secondary due to more pressing issues requiring their time, which is consistent with barriers observed in other residential energy cultures studies [ 42 ]. Lots of stuff has happened, that is beyond the control of anything so this sort of takes the back burner for some of it. Additionally, mechanisms requiring additional time to operate and learn to use, or did not align with their time, were not utilized, further highlighting the social challenge of coordination and strong values of convenience inhibiting energy management among households [ 84 ].

The lack of knowledge and skills for making additional changes was clearly articulated as a barrier to energy management. In particular, this barrier was strongly related to the goal setting function. Goal setting is identified as a promising form of antecedent intervention [ 10 ]. And then again steps to achieve them. Providing additional guidance was suggested as a key area to reduce this barrier. In this study, self-determined goals caused confusion and disengagement.

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This contradicts McCalley and Midden [ 69 ], where self-determined goals were more successful than assigned goals. Although participants identified that their awareness had increased, careful consideration for engaging consumers on how to make additional changes was needed in regards to goal setting. As a result of high standards for comfort and convenience, and household contextual factors, participants indicated a lack of willingness to make substantial changes in practices. Consequently, limited use of mechanisms for energy management e.

Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings

Participants who did not utilize the thermostat control function mentioned concerns about flexibility and accessibility of the settings, similar to participant 3 who said:. Because you know what they talk about doing this automatic optimization, whether shutting on and off appliances so I can and cannot use them […] With two kids, I cannot deal with that.

This highlights the challenge of changing conventions and expectations [ 84 ] of homeowners in order to adopt home energy management technologies. Participants highly valued that consumption feedback was provided in financial terms consumption could be shown in kWh, dollars, or kgCO 2. As noted by Delmas et al. In particular, financial feedback motivated participants to make changes in both material culture and practices. Increased information on appliance consumption costs provided households with opportunities to increase their savings by switching to off-peak periods, as well as to remove appliances.

Consequently, increased financial information led to some changes in material culture and energy practices, specifically peak shifting. Participants highlighted the value of gaining more information consumption data and the ability to see historical appliance-level consumption through the web portal.

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This aligns with Chen et al. The importance of awareness and increased information was discussed thoroughly by participants in relation to the weekly newsletter electricity report, which provided a summary of household-level consumption as well as comparative feedback average and best quintile.


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The frequency of the electricity reports allowed households to see end-use impacts of their actions. All interviewees identified the continued importance of managing energy consumption beyond the project, aligning with their previously articulated motivations, including saving money, improving efficiency, and reducing waste and environmental impacts.

Additionally, participants throughout the interviews mentioned their willingness and desire to continue utilizing disaggregated feedback to understand their energy use. In particular, participant 6 moved to a new home without this technology and identified interest to install similar technologies to increase awareness and opportunities for management:. Because the house was heated floor in the kitchen, which we didn't have at the other place, so my thought was like, did someone turn it on? And then the kids were playing with the controls?

And then I was like did someone turn it on and leave it? And, if I have it on all winter how is it going to impact our energy, I have no idea. There's no way to see it. So we were happy to move, but we were not happy that we were unable to monitor our usage at all […] it was a very positive experience. Participants valued this technology to improve their consumption awareness and their potential for increased energy management, therefore highlighting a few cases of an aspirational shift in household energy culture.

To reduce the main barriers discussed, programme elements for conserving energy should not interfere with lifestyle and convenience by being accessible, timely, and concise. Providing more direct feedback on particular strategies for CDM could also aid in reducing the barrier of not knowing how to improve. This study applied Stephenson et al. This is the first pilot project to utilize the energy cultures framework in both a Canadian and smart grid context—extending the application of the framework both technologically and geographically.


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Additionally, the depth of qualitative feedback from the 3-year pilot project and the multiple engagement mechanisms used to engage and re-engage participants allows for further understanding of household decision-making processes in regard to energy consumption. In this project, participants increased their awareness and practices towards energy management. Key findings indicate that although these smart grid early adopters were interested in using this form of smart grid technology for managing their energy consumption, contextual factors and normative standards of lifestyle and convenience strongly inhibited the adoption of both a smarter and more sustainable energy culture within these households Fig.

In particular, low energy prices and high standards of comfort resulted in less flexibility for shifting and reducing energy practices.

Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings
Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings
Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings
Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings
Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings
Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings Home Energy Information: Measuring and Managing Energy Consumption in Residential Buildings

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