Sensors, sense-making and sensitivities: UK household experiences with a feedback display on energy consumption and indoor environmental conditions

Georgina Wood, Rosemary Day, Emily Creamer, Dan van der Horst, Atif Hussain, Shuli Liu, Ashish Shukla, Obiajulu Iweka, Mark Gaterell, Panagiotis Petridis, Nicholas Adams, Victoria Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
270 Downloads (Pure)


Smart metering of domestic energy use allows consumer feedback through in-home displays (IHDs), websites or smart phone apps. Research has illustrated the need for additional ‘sense-making’ information to help households make informed energy-related decisions. This study investigates how household members respond when energy consumption data is integrated with information on indoor environmental conditions (IECs) and coupled with advice on energy saving actions. An integrated system of energy meters and IEC sensors was trialled in 19 predominantly social housing properties in the Midlands (England). Households were provided with a tablet computer and feedback was provided via a dedicated ‘Energy Dashboard’ web-based software application (app). The app was designed in collaboration with the social housing provider to display electricity and gas consumption data as well as data on three IECs: relative humidity, carbon dioxide and temperature. This paper draws on the findings from two rounds of semi-structured interviews with participants. All respondents using the app reported that they made use of the IEC data within the sense-making process, finding temperature and humidity to be useful in linking energy consumption, activities and household conditions. Interpretation of IEC data tended to increase with time as understanding increased. However, different users ‘noticed’, ‘interpreted’ and ‘enacted’ information differently as they integrated this with other sources of information, such as feedback from household members and experiential knowledge. The findings suggest that, whilst incorporating greater contextual information, such as IECs, into feedback displays can help users make sense of domestic energy consumption, the outcomes of the sense-making process will be different for different households. Nevertheless, the provision of such information appears to support householders to make decisions about their energy management that they feel appropriate for their household’s wellbeing needs, within the bounds of their agency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-105
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Early online date21 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Energy feedback
  • energy consumption
  • sense-making
  • household trial


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