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How occupants behave and interact with their homes: the impact on energy use, comfort, control and satisfaction (NF35)


Through incentives such as the Feed-in Tariff and the Green Deal, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of new homes arising from energy efficiency. However, realising the benefits is as reliant on human interaction and behaviour as it is on the theoretical performance of the individual technologies.

This publication reviews current and previous research carried out with users of low and zero carbon homes. It summarises how the energy use of homes is significantly affected by the actions of their owners, considers the perceptions of homeowners to micro renewable technologies, and assesses the relationship between occupant behaviour and energy efficiency.

Summary of content

The NHBC Foundation believes that there is a pressing need for more information on how end users interact with new homes and what impact this has on energy use and occupant comfort and satisfaction. This review was therefore commissioned to examine a broad spectrum of research areas including: research on controls and user interfaces, domestic user guides and product manuals, occupant behaviour and behaviour change, occupant feedback on low energy homes and consumer perceptions of microrenewable technologies.

The review examines current and previous research and aims to identify any gaps in knowledge and specifically where further work is needed. It details the findings from a comprehensive literature review and contributions from BRE social science experts.

The findings of the research indicate that further research will be required to examine:

  • Occupant behaviour: How occupants use their homes and energy-dependent systems. How best to change occupant behaviour. How new homes and technologies can be designed to encourage behaviours and habits that reduce energy use
  • Feedback to occupants: Looking at what information should be provided through smart meters, and other feedback devices, and in what format this information should be provided
  • Designing controls and interfaces: How to design intuitive, simple controls and user interfaces. Examine what impact automated controls have on domestic energy use and what occupants think of them.
  • Educating and informing occupants: How best to inform users how to make the most efficient use of their homes and the systems in them, not just how to operate them. Understanding what information should be provided in user guides, at what level of detail and in what format should this information be provided.
  • Post-occupancy evaluations: Collecting occupant feedback and monitoring data from the latest low energy homes to better understand how these homes are used and how they perform in practice.
  • Micro-renewable technologies: How these technologies actually perform in the ‘real world’. What the future maintenance issues are likely to be. How well occupants understand the systems and how to control them. The impact of occupant behaviour on the performance of the systems and what influence the systems have on how occupants behave.