Accepted paper:

Heating controllers as boundary objects between homes and energy infrastructures

Authors:

Clare Hanmer (University College London)
Charlotte Johnson (University College London)
Michelle Shipworth (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores UK household experiences of heating controllers that are interacting with the supply infrastructure The focus is on the heating controller as a "boundary object" between the smart networked future envisioned by the designers and the bounded home experienced by the residents.

Paper long abstract:

In the UK, where most homes are heated using gas, a transition to electric heating features in scenarios for a low carbon future, but would place an extra burden on the UK's electricity network at times of peak demand. Heating controllers with algorithms to respond to network constraints have the potential to align domestic heating systems with the daily peaks and troughs of national and local electricity demand. These smart controllers require householders to set the temperatures and times they want in their homes, while being flexible about when the heating operates to provide this service (e.g. pre-heating ahead of peak demand times). This paper explores household experiences of controllers that are interacting with the supply infrastructure as well as being used by the householders to control new heating technology. It is based on empirical data from homes participating in UK trials of smart heating controls. Interviews with participants explore how residents engage with and interpret the technology and its effect on their homes and themselves. The focus is on the heating controller as a "boundary object" between the smart networked future envisioned by the designers and the bounded home with manageable costs and comforts experienced by the residents. The extent to which the interpretative flexibility allowed by the heating controller supports the alignment of household preferences with network optimization is discussed.

panel A11
Encountering energy in systems and everyday spaces