Do intelligent heating controls out-smart ordinary users?

Becky Mallaband, Victoria Haines, Ashley Morton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


Nearly a third of UK gas and electricity is used in homes, of which 80% is for space heating and hot water provision. Rising consumer bills, concerns about climate change and the surge in personal digital technology use has provoked the development of intelligent domestic heating controls. Whilst the need for having suitable control of the home heating system is essential for reducing domestic energy use, these heating controls rely on appropriate user interaction to achieve a saving and it is unclear whether these ‘smart’ heating controls enhance the use of domestic heating or reduce energy demand. This paper describes qualitative research undertaken with a small sample of UK householders to understand how people use new heating controls installed in their homes and what the requirements are for improved smart heating control design. The paper identifies, against Nielsen’s usability heuristics, the divergence between the householder’s use, understanding and expectations of
the heating system and the actual design of the system. Digital and smart heating control systems should be designed to maximise usability so that they can be effectively used for efficient heating control by all users. The research highlights the need for development of new systems to readdress the needs of users and redefine the system requirements.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2016
Event4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency - University of Coimbra, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 8 Sept 20169 Sept 2016


Conference4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency
Abbreviated titleBEHAVE 2016

Bibliographical note

-This conference paper is published with kind permission of the conference organiser.

This work forms part of the DEFACTO project (EP/K00249X/1) funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.


  • domestic energy
  • usability
  • users
  • smart
  • heating controls


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