Seeing Data, Saving Energy - Lyn Bartram
April 3, 2014
When the monthly utility bill arrives, many Canadians wonder how they can use less energy and reduce their payments. A big problem is that homeowners are often unaware of precisely how much energy they use day to day. What if they could see how much energy their home is using moment to moment, and feel good about taking even small actions, like turning off the lights?
My name is Dr. Lyn Bartram, and I'm an Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Art and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. What we're interested in doing is helping people live more sustainably, particularly around energy conservation and resource conservation in the home. And so we think of this as rather than trying to make really smart homes for people who then can't use them properly, we try to make aware homes that people can use more easily.
So what we're trying to do is use some innovative approaches to visualization that both encourage people to conserve and encourage them to make energy awareness part of their information landscape without having to look them up on a computer all the time.
So ALIS stands for the Aware Living Interface System. It's a web-based user interface to the home that we built in my lab at SFU and have tried out in a number of homes, and it runs on a mobile platform, and it runs on various forms of embedded displays, as I said before, and it helps people both control their house and get information about currently the energy use in their house. We'll be adding water next year.
The ALIS system is actually based on two things: control and feedback. People really don't want bar graphs sitting in their home, right? And it doesn't necessarily help them feel warm and fuzzy about this idea of saving energy. But maybe they would like something like a tree or something that's familiar. So this is our little energy tree. As you can see here, the furnace is running, so this is the leak that refers to the furnace, and as it uses more energy, it gets bigger. But I see that there is some fruit on the tree, and that means that I've done a conservation action. So what I probably did was set my thermostat one degree lower than I otherwise would need to set it.
So the idea of this is not just to say here's where you're using energy in your house, but it's also to say, look, here are all the things you've done right because it's really important to us to motivate people as well as to give them an idea of where they're using the resource.
It turns out that if we use our homes more effectively, not if we replace the windows, not if we spend a lot of money on a new roof, but if we just use them more effectively, we can save between 10 and 30 percent of our energy use. And that's a lot.