Persuasive technology and energy consumption


152 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) was produced in the UK in 2009. The domestic sector accounts for 41.7 million tonnes, which is about 27% of carbon emissions in the UK resulting from energy consumption. The rising global energy demands, environmental issues, increasing costs and limited natural resources call for efficient and economic management of resources and energy conservation practices. This is especially important in large residential areas, where energy consumption remains largely invisible to consumers. The consumption of electricity in residential buildings is highly dependent on the behaviours of the residents. Therefore, we need to approach this issue not just with technological solutions but behavioural change as well.


The PFSS system

To address these challenges, we have designed, configured and implemented a robust Persuasive Feedback Support System (PFSS) to facilitate energy conservation and carbon emission reduction. Specifically, in this project we combined: off-the-shelf OWL wireless electricity flow sensors, as well as networking hardware, central database and dedicated web interface display software custom developed by the Kent team.

The four week deployment of PFSS, with 16 halls of residents at University of Kent (112 students) revealed that overall the use of real time feedback system reduced energy consumption significantly when compared to baseline readings. Interestingly, we found that the combination of real time feedback system with a human energy delegate in 8 halls resulted in higher reduction of 37% in energy consumptions when compared to the baseline, amounting to savings of 1360.49 kWh (713.71 kg CO2) in the experimental halls. On the contrary, the 8 non-experimental halls, which were exposed to the real time feedback and weekly email alert, resulted in only 3.5 % reduction in energy consumption when compared to the baseline, amounting to savings of 165.00 kWh (86.56 kg of CO2).

A paper outlining the technical details of PFSS has been accepted for publication in Energy and Buildings. Another paper reporting the user trial results has been accepted for publication in Energy.