The mediating role of home energy management systems

Panel: Panel 2 Technology and Behaviour

Sonja van Dam, C.A. Bakker, J.D.M. van Hal, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands


This paper reviews research into Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS). These are intermediary products that can visualize, manage, and/or monitor the energy use of other products or whole households. HEMS have lately received increasing attention for their possible role in conserving energy within households. However, an analysis of the problem areas within household energy consumption along with a review of case studies and commercially available HEMS reveals some research gaps.

In the Netherlands more than half of the CO2 emission of households is caused by energy using products while not in use, or by those designed to function in the background of people’s daily lives, with little direct interaction between the user and the product. Research has hardly paid attention to the role that HEMS can play towards energy conservation of  these background products. HEMS that manage energy at product level can mediate better with background products than those that measure at household level. However, these HEMS often function in the background themselves, countering the effects of user’s behavior by assuming control of devices. Others are designed to create awareness; motivating or engaging users to change behavior through feedback. However, there is evidence that HEMS which only give feedback at household level, gradually fade into the background, jeopardizing energy reduction and undermine their existence.

These findings have several implications for the mediating roles of HEMS, which are elaborated in this paper. If HEMS are to become truly effective, future research needs to focus on improving longitudinal effects and studying the influence of design.


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