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Co-designing the next generation of home energy management systems with lead-users

Peacock, Andrew D. and Chaney, Joel and Goldbach, Kristin and Walker, Guy and Tuohy, Paul and Santonja, Salvador and Todoli, David and Owens, Edward H. (2017) Co-designing the next generation of home energy management systems with lead-users. Applied Ergonomics, 60. pp. 194-206. ISSN 0003-6870

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Home energy management systems are widely promoted as essential components of future low carbon economies. It is argued in this paper that assumptions surrounding their deployment, and the methods used to design them, emerge from discredited models of people and energy. This offers an explanation for why their field trial performance is so inconsistent. A first of a kind field trial is reported. Three eco communities took part in a comprehensive participatory design exercise as lead users. The challenge was to help users synchronise their energy use behaviours with the availability of locally generated renewable energy sources. To meet this aim, a set of highly novel Home Energy Management interfaces were co-designed and tested. Not only were the designs radically different to the norm, but they also yielded sustained user engagement over a six-month follow-up period. It is argued that user-centred design holds the key to unlocking the energy saving potential of new domestic technologies, and this study represents a bold step in that direction.