What role for home energy monitors in primary school energy education?
Mike Fell, UCL
My research is employing focus groups with children, parents/guardians and teachers to find out what these stakeholders think about the use of home energy monitors in energy education. I also hope that it will provide insights into children’s role in home energy use (and the part they could play in reducing it).
Research has shown that people who have better information on how much energy they use – for example from a home energy monitor like the one pictured – tend to slightly reduce the amount of energy they use (and therefore their energy bills and carbon emissions). Over the next decade every home in the UK will be receiving smart gas and electricity meters with the capacity to provide real-time feedback to occupants. I’m interested in how people’s energy behaviour might respond to this initiative, with the ultimate aim of finding ways to make this feedback as effective as possible in helping people to reduce their energy use.
Home energy monitors are sometimes used for educational purposes by primary schools. For example, in 2010 a large energy company ran a scheme with ten schools in the UK where children were taught about energy use in the home and then had the chance to take home an energy monitor for a while to see how much energy their own home used. Such projects seem like a potentially effective way to get children and their families interested in, and more aware of, energy use in their home. Working with a couple of schools in the London area and using focus group research, I want to find out what children, parents/guardians and teachers think about this sort of scheme. What do they like about the idea? Do they have any concerns? The results will help inform subsequent research and improve the design of future initiatives, as well as increasing understanding of the role of children and families in the effectiveness of feedback on energy demand reduction.
I’ve been using the below video (in higher resolution) in focus groups to explain the function of home energy monitors when it hasn’t been possible to set up a real-life demonstration.