Debunking IHD Misconceptions
In-home displays (IHDs) were installed in 354 residential homes at a large west coast gas and electric utility. The IHDs’ main function was to engage customers with real time electricity usage and the costs associated with that usage, and, as a result, help customers adopt more energy efficient behaviors. The device appeared to accomplish this goal: an estimated 5% daily electric usage savings was found in an evaluation that included billing analysis, surveys of participants about device usability and satisfaction, and separate focus groups with satisfied and dissatisfied participants. This study revealed that prominent display of the IHD in the home’s common areas and specific IHD display design elements were important in engaging customers with the device. Public positioning helped stimulate conversations about energy conservation both inside and outside the household. This finding contradicts the commonly held industry belief that the optimal vehicle to communicate information about energy consumption is the personal electronic device (PED). Pilot participants preferred the stand-alone IHD over the PED because it was readily viewable by all members of the household and it displayed compelling usage information. Mobile devices on the other hand, are usually private and energy usage information would need to be pulled by the customer, rather than pushed by the utility. Specific displays of the IHD, such as the “speedometer” of current kW, were greatly preferred over other displays for conveying information about electric consumption. IHD design matters – we have only scratched the surface in terms of understanding how to attract and engage customers.