Home Energy Hackday: the results


On Saturday 9th November, about 35 designers, developers, makers, researchers and other interesting people came together at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre. We had everyone from energy startups to service designers, venture capital to building performance and energy consultants, along with participants from our SusLabNWE partner organisations, Chalmers (Gothenburg) and Imperial College London. (Full list of people who signed up).



The hackday brought together both more ‘technological’ and more ‘human’ perspectives on energy use in the home, with a range of interests, experience and expertise.

As such, while we had a table of electronic prototyping bits – and more brought by participants, and kindly lent by Imperial -  groups were free to use whatever methods they liked to explore, prototype and demonstrate their ideas, including digital and paper prototyping.



And they did: over the course of 12 hours of intensive (but hopefully fun) work, teams addressed two quite broad briefs / themes arising from our co-creation work with householders earlier this summer and autumn:

In/visibility of energy

â–¶ Householders have told us that not being able to ‘see’ the energy they use (and what’s actually using it) limits their ability to change how they use it. This doesn’t just mean visualisation via numbers and graphs – what could be new ways of communicating energy? Following on from this, are there opportunities for more ambient (e.g. audio) interfaces for energy use?

Thermal comfort

â–¶ Heating uses the largest proportion of energy in homes, but the area of thermal comfort is complex and it is not as simple as merely turning down the thermostat. Can we look at this question not directly through temperature, but instead from the perspective of householders’ comfort and their sense of control over the home environment?




By the end of the day, the six self-organised teams were ready to present what they’d been working on:

knudgic_image DSC_0415Normative Nudging / Knudgic (Sophie Walker, Paul Tanner, Aideen McConville, Will Allen-Mersh & Jesse Horne)

Paul has a blog post explaining the idea:

“to deliver energy-saving nudges that would be personalised and therefore more acceptable than the usual straight comparisons that ignore people’s circumstances”.

See also the team’s presentation slides:





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The team’s presentation (thanks to Cleanweb UK for the video).

DSC_0326 DSC_0456Home Training (Irene Yen-Hsuan Shih, Lynn Chung, Carolyn Runcie, Robin North, Leila Shepherd, Sameer Primohamed & Jamie Young)

“Home Training is an one-month programme to transform your energy use room by room!” with a “pass it on” element, encouraging community participation and engagement.

The Home Training team won the prize for best inclusion of people in the design process, receiving a Belkin Wemo Switch + Motion.

Home Training – Get Your Home Trained, Take The Community Challenge! from Irene Shih on Vimeo.

The team’s presentation (thanks to Cleanweb UK for the video).

DSC_0358DSC_0369Heat Me (Chris Adams, Ross Atkin, Krisztina Kovacs-Schreiner, Alan Ambrose, Mark Lowther, JK Yoon & Mattia Bernini)

Heat Me is a prototype home heating control system using wearable wireless temperature sensors, motion detection and wall-mounted fans to move warm air between rooms. In the video below, Homer the robot stands in for a householder.

The Heat Me team won the prize for most entertaining presentation of their project, receiving a Makey Makey kit.

The team’s presentation (thanks to Cleanweb UK for the video).

logs-05 DSC_0420 DSC_0429Fire Place (Ness Wright, Pernilla Hagbert, Nigel Crawley, Maximo Riadigos)

Fire Place is a home heating system using logs as a metaphor for adding 15-minute heating boosts to particular rooms in the house. The overall home temperature can be set lower than normal, with householders allocating a log to rooms which are going to be in use, as needed rather than heating the whole house continuously.

An app allows pre-selection of the ‘stock’ of logs for the week or month, and gives feedback on use. The system could also be used as a research tool for understanding social practices around negotiation and heating in shared households and within families.




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The team’s presentation (thanks to Cleanweb UK for the video).


DSC_0371 P1030257A sunlight-tracking photovoltaic system (Amy Lee & Min Choi)

Amy and Min’s system uses light-dependent resistors, mounted inside reflective cones, to sense light levels, and an Arduino to control two servos moving the cones towards the light.

Amy and Min’s presentation (thanks to Cleanweb UK for the video).

D_DSC_0392 hackneywattsIncorporating local culture and political perspectives into energy monitors / smart meter displays (Ted Hunt & Niall Morahan)

As part of an ongoing RCA Service Design group project, Ted and Niall explored a number of possible new systems bringing a ‘local’ slant to energy visualisation and householder engagement in generation, interviewing other hackday participants to understand the opportunities in this space.

Ted’s presentation (thanks to Cleanweb UK for the video).


Thanks to everyone for so much enthusiasm and hard work! Thanks too to Alex Deschamps-Sonsino for putting the word out to the Internet of Things London meetup group, and Cleanweb UK for doing the same, to Chris Adams for the videos, to Carolyn Runcie for organising the space at the Dana Centre, and to the Dana Centre security staff who came in on the weekend.

Over the next few weeks and months, Flora and I will be considering the ideas and concepts that emerged from the hackday, and synthesising and building on elements of the projects, as part of our ongoing SusLab development work. Keep an eye on the blog for more details.