Loughborough congratulates another PhD success

Loughborough congratulates another PhD success
24th February 2017 Karen Holmes

Everyone in the LoLo community would like to congratulate Ashley Morton on passing her viva with minor corrections in January 2017.

Her thesis title is “Heating Use in UK homes”.

Ashley tells us about her work and time with the LoLo CDT:

What your research/thesis was about

My thesis is titled “Heating use in UK homes’ and the aim of my research was to examine household space heating use and identify the reasons behind heating use in UK homes.  Given that over 60% of energy used within a home goes on space heating it is an area of interest for reducing energy used within an home.  However little was known regarding how it is people currently heat their homes, what it is that people do to heat their homes and why people heat their homes the way that they do.  My PhD research looked at understanding more regarding these how, what and why questions regarding heating use in homes.

To achieve my PhD aim I carried out two separate studies, entitled Phase 1 and Phase 2, which utilised multidisciplinary research methods.  Phase 1 of the research used primarily qualitative methods to develop an understanding of the variation of current heating use in homes, how people heat their homes and the reasons behind why they adopt certain heating behaviours.  Phase 2 of the research used a multi-staged, mixed methods approach where quantitative methods were used to investigate what people did to heat their homes, how people interacted with new heating controls and how varied the heating behaviours were within the sample regarding set-point temperatures, heating durations and the heating schedules set.  The qualitative methods used within Phase 2 investigated why people used their heating a particular way and whether any issues impacted their use of heating within their homes.

The results of this research included a heating use taxonomy based on the Phase 1 findings which identified various heating user characters.  These different heating user characters impacted on how heating was used within households and identified which user types may be more susceptible to new heating control technology.  Within Phase 2 results from installing new heating controls were presented which allowed measured heating use to be presented including separated manual use from scheduled use, heating durations, use of the controls, measured set-points demanded by occupants and occupants’ perceptions of the new controls.  The use of multidisciplinary methods allowed for the complexity behind heating use in homes to be uncovered which showed some unexpected findings, such as those households with children demanding lower set-point temperatures, and those within more energy efficient houses demanding the higher set-point temperatures.

What were the highlights of LoLo

I have many highlights of LoLo and have found being part of the CDT a very rewarding, if at times challenging, experience.  The structure of the CDT, with completing the MRes first, helped me gain the knowledge and skills needed for my PhD, especially coming from a background in Chemistry to start.  Having the opportunity to learn a new skill set in order to complete a multidisciplinary PhD study was something I had not expected but it now allows me to look at research from a different perspective.

I do believe the people make LoLo.  There are not many places where you have a wealth of knowledge, support, expertise, guidance, opportunities and ultimately friendship from not only fellow CDT students but also academics, support staff and external stakeholders.

What are you doing now

I started working full time as the Cohort Interaction Research Associate on the DEFACTO project in August 2016.  The DEFACTO project (Digital Energy Feedback And Control Technology Optimisation) is an EPSRC £1.5m funded project running from 2012-2018, which is investigating how the use of digital heating control and feedback devices can enable the reduction of this domestic energy use. My role as the cohort interaction research associate means I am responsible for all contact with the participants and carrying out qualitative and quantitative research aimed at understanding more about the user experience in heating use.  This means I get to apply the findings from my PhD on a larger scale and expand my knowledge of heating user types and the influence these have on how heating is used within UK homes.