Accessibility links

I mentioned Onzo in a previous post about energy displays, but thought I'd re-visit the topic as they have recently released images of their first product. No mention yet of how they are using Sentec's Coracle technology (presumably we have to wait for their next generation products), but their first display looks well-designed, seems to (from the image showing on the display) include a target for each day's energy consumption, and has a clever technical innovation over most of its competitors; its sensor (the part on the right of the above image) that clips around the main electricity inlet of your house (near your meter and fuse box) harvests energy from the wire and as such doesn't require batteries.

I mentioned Onzo in a previous post about energy displays, but thought I'd re-visit the topic as they have recently released images of their first product. No mention yet of how they are using Sentec's Coracle technology (presumably we have to wait for their next generation products), but their first display looks well-designed, seems to (from the image showing on the display) include a target for each day's energy consumption, and has a clever technical innovation over most of its competitors; its sensor (the part on the right of the above image) that clips around the main electricity inlet of your house (near your meter and fuse box) harvests energy from the wire and as such doesn't require batteries.

Here it is looking friendly on your noticeboard or fridge:

Onzo's designers also have a blog which sometimes touches on design for behaviour change.

In related news, the Department for Energy and Climate Change opened a consultation into possible ammendments to CERT (the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target which requires energy suppliers to help you save energy by supplying insulation etc.). One of the changes they propose is designed to encourage more energy-efficient behaviour change, and is the promotion of real time energy display devices (like Onzo's product).

The main requirements for such a display counting under CERT are that it displays a minimum of real time electricity consumption and cost on a portable or hand-held type display, can be connected to an existing electricity meter or to a new meter, and that it must be provided only to customers who want them.

DECC are planning to incentivise provision of these displays by putting a predefined carbon score on a real time display that equates to how much carbon will be saved as a result of supplying one to a home and will count towards the utility supplier's CERT budget. The consultation distinguishes between a real time display that uses disposable batteries (either for the transmitter or the receiver/display) and one that does not - on the basis that trials show that most people do not replace the batteries when they run out. The first type will count for 3.5% electricity consumption over 15 years, and the second type will count for three quarters of this figure.

Interestingly, the consultation also dips a cautious toe in the water of design for behaviour change by suggesting that displays with advanced functions, like "detailed information about individual appliances, the ability to download data onto a PC for more detailed analysis of electricity use and the use of such data in social networking sites" should count for a higher carbon score.

I mentioned in previous posts that the most authoritative review of the literature seemed to indicate 5-15% reduced electricity consumption as a result of giving people direct feedback on their energy consumption. Although the evidence base is admittedly thin, DECC's 3.5% seems incredibly cautious to me. A couple of weeks ago in a meeting, someone mentioned that although they thought their house was as efficient as possible (all low energy lightbulbs etc.), after buying a real time display they were able to save another 16% on their bill. These sort of anecdotal stories aren't rare.

So why is the carbon score of the displays so low? DECC's consultation cites evidence from a variety of trials, most of them using the cheapest, least engaging examples of interaction design I've ever seen, but none of them resulted in average savings of less than 6%.

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