Assisted Shifting of Electricity Use: A Long-Term Study of Managing Residential Heating

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Shifting is an energy-conserving interaction strategy for moving energy consumption to times where it is sustainably favorable. This interaction strategy is attracting increasing interest within sustainable HCI studies. While most of these consider how interactive technology can change household behavior, only few report on how shifting is experienced in everyday life when assisted by automation. In this study, we investigate an interactive technology that assists households to shift electricity consumption to times when electricity is cheap or more sustainable. Our study was conducted as a long-term field deployment for 6 to 18 months with eight households, each living with an interactive prototype that shifts running times for a heat pump within user-defined boundaries. Our findings show that managing heat pumps towards assisted shifting was well-received by all households because it was a convenient way to shift electricity consumption. Shifting electricity use facilitated price savings of 6.8% to 16.9%. Nevertheless, our findings also reveal a conflict between the system design, and how householders actually interact with their heating system and experience assisted shifting. Based on the eight households’ experiences we present three overall themes of convenience, control, and complexity that each describes different aspects of long-term real-life use of automatic technology assisting households to shift electricity use. We discuss the broader implications of these findings and the role of design and future sustainability technology in everyday life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number5
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018



  • Sustainability
  • electricity use
  • domestic
  • heating
  • field study
  • long-term
  • automation
  • smart grid

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