The use of digital technology to encourage householders in the energy sector to retrofit their properties and adopt sustainable heating behaviours

  • Christopher Weeks

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisEngineering Doctorate (EngD)


In the drive to build a more sustainable world, we know that we must make a significant change in the way that householders heat their properties. To this end, this thesis focuses on first, better understanding the decision process behind the installation of energy efficiency measures; second, to enhance our knowledge about the reasons behind unsustainable heating patterns; and finally, to highlight the role digital technology can play in helping us move towards a more sustainable domestic energy system.
The thesis has five contributions to knowledge. First, we highlight that the Sustainable Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) research communities need to focus more of their attention on retrofitting and space heating behaviours due to their large potential for energy and CO2 savings. The second contribution to knowledge is a novel theoretical framework called “the power law of engagement for energy saving”, which shows how we can convert disengaged householders into engaged householders that install energy efficiency measures. We then build on the power law of engagement for energy saving by exploring a number of the reasons for the slow adoption of energy efficiency measures by householders. The results extend the literature on the drivers and barriers to the installation of energy efficiency measures. The third contribution is an in-depth evaluation of the role that householders’ sustainability views have in determining their heating patterns. We extend the academic literature by highlighting that there is no significant correlation between a householder’s sustainability values and pro-environmental self-identity (seeing oneself as pro-environmental) and their objective scheduled and actual heating patterns. We also show the role a householder’s technology self-identity (seeing oneself as an early adopter of new technology) can play in predicting self-reported pro-environmental behaviours, but that it has limited predictive influence on objective scheduled and actual heating patterns. The final contribution is the implementation of a unique smartphone application designed to help develop school pupils’ knowledge on a number of key energy sustainability (reducing the impact the energy sector has on the environment) topics. The application was then used to collect data about school pupils’ levels of knowledge, awareness of, and engagement with energy sustainability, which showcased a significant knowledge about certain topics, but also a significant lack of knowledge in other vital sustainability topics.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorChris W Preist (Supervisor), Charles Delalonde (Supervisor) & David J. Ferguson (Supervisor)

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