We recruited 12 households and gave them one of two smarter controls they could control via an app. Half had a single room thermostat, the other half a zonal system that let them set the temperature in each room.
Participants liked the smarter controls more than they expected. They felt they were benefiting more from the heat they bought. They tried to save money by turning heat off when they were out, or in rooms they didn’t use. They started to feel comfortable in rooms they used to find too cold. They saved time by using remote controls to avoid getting up off the sofa, or out of bed to adjust the heating. They enjoyed making their guests feel warm and welcome.
We also learnt many other things that we could never have discovered without doing a field trial. For instance, people preferred the zonal installation even though it took longer. They found them easier to arrange, knew how long they would take and when the installer would arrive.
There were also many opportunities for improvements. Some wanted control of when their heating came on in bedrooms to prevent the noise or heat waking them up. Others wanted to adjust something physical rather than using an app as it was quicker.
Most important of all, people wanted to know what was the best way to heat their home. But they could not understand the cost of heating their home in different ways. So we used the findings to design products and services that let them choose how much they wanted to spend on their heating.