Investigating occupant’s perception of the functionality of the heating and cooling system and the usability of its controls
Lisa Gobio-Thomas, UCL MRes EDS
I submitted a paper on the usability of thermostats and the effect on occupants’ comfort to the NCEUB Masters conference in London based on my MRes dissertation which won best paper in the conference.
Lisa Gobio-Lamin talks about this project:
This project aims to investigate the perception of the Energy Institute occupants on the usability of the heating and cooling controls and the functionality of the heating and cooling system.
Efficient use of controls saves energy, reduces fuel bills and maintains a consistent thermal comfort level for occupants. The most energy efficient heating systems can be made ineffective when the controls are complicated or confusing to operate. Hence it is very important that temperature controls are designed in ways that are easily understood by occupants to ensure that the controls are used effectively. This notion is supported by Bordass, Leaman & Bunn (2007), who state that “if user controls are ambiguous in intent, poorly labelled or fail to show whether anything has changed when they are operated, then the systems that lie behind them are unlikely to operate effectively or efficiently”. The project will investigate occupants’ perception on the design and usability of the heating and cooling controls and how well the heating and cooling system (HVAC) works.
Observation Tests: Individual observation tests will be performed to observe and record how the occupants interact with the controls.
Focus Groups: Two sets of focus groups will be held; one with the students and another with the researchers to encourage full discussion and in-depth description about the usability of the controls and the functionality of the heating and cooling system.
Data Loggers: Temperature data loggers will also be placed in the researchers and students’ office rooms to obtain the internal temperatures which will be mapped against occupants’ perception of thermal comfort.
Occupant Evaluation Surveys: Evaluation surveys will be used to obtain occupants’ evaluation of the performance of the offices in terms of level of thermal comfort provided and usability of the thermostat controls.
The research findings from the project will be used to provide recommendations on improving the design of the user interface of the controls and the functionality of the heating and cooling system in order to achieve thermal comfort for occupants.