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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A tale of two houses: the human dimension of demand response enabling technology from a case study of an adaptive wireless thermostat.


Demand response—the management of customer electricity demand in response to supply—has emerged as a promising means of increasing grid reliability by reducing peak demand. One potential technology to enable residential Demand Response (DR) is a Programmable Communicating Thermostat (PCT) that receives price signals from the electrical utility. However, several issues preclude the widespread adoption of this technology and policy. One is the poor adoption and energy-conserving performance of a similar technology and policy—the programmable setback thermostat. Another is lukewarm customer response to residential DR air conditioning cycling programs. Finally, financial incentive alone may not suffice to persistently reduce peak electricity consumption.

A team at UC Berkeley developed an alternative model for a residential demand response enabling technology, called the Demand Response Electrical Appliance Manager (DREAM). The DREAM system acts as both an intelligent thermostat and in-home energy display. DREAM consists of a wireless network of data sensors, appliance actuators and a central controller that can communicate variable price signals. We tested the DREAM in two houses in the summer of 2007 for six weeks. The DREAM controlled the HVAC system, monitored electricity from appliances, sensed temperature and occupancy, and displayed temperature and energy consumption. This paper discusses potential issues for DR policy and technology, and describes potential solutions in improving user adoption.

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