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Reducing home energy use is a major societal challenge, involving behaviour change alongside infrastructure improvements. However, many approaches lump ‘energy demand’ together as something homogeneous, addressable primarily through quantitative feedback, rather than basing interventions on an understanding of why people use energy as they do. Our contention is that people don't set out to ‘use energy’: its use is a side effect of solving everyday problems, meeting needs for comfort, light, cooking, cleaning, entertainment, and so on.

Design researchers at the Royal College of Art have been carrying out ethnographic research with a diverse range of householders, investigating nuances of daily interactions with heating and lighting, meters and appliances—alongside people's understanding of energy and how their actions affect its use. Insights, integrated with household monitoring data, will inform the co-design of prototype products and services to help people reduce their energy use while meeting needs.