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Open Access Publications from the University of California

What Are People's Responses to Thermal Discomfort? Sensing Clothing and Activity Levels Using SenseCam

  • Author(s): Gauthier, Stephanie Marie
  • et al.

Recent international agreements on reducing energy consumption have led to a series of interventions in residential buildings, from modifying the building fabric to upgrading operating systems. To date, these attempts have met with limited success. One reason for this has been identified as the ‘rebound effect’, where the occupants’ respond to their home thermal environment change in unexpected ways after interventions. Often people decide to turn up the heating, to leave it on for longer, or to increase the average spatial temperature by heating more rooms. Although much of the research on heating patterns in dwellings has focused on identifying methods to predict and to assess thermal sensation, less is understood about the way occupants form their responses. Research presented in this paper focuses on mapping householders thermal discomfort responses. Empirical methods, drawn from the social and cognitive sciences, were used in a several studies, which monitored a small sample of UK households during winter of 2010. One of the tools used, the SenseCam, facilitates an automatic electronic diary collection by logging occupants’ responses in a systematic approach.SenseCam results enabled the mapping of participants’ activities in their home, in particular the estimation of clothing and activity level throughout the record period. The preliminary monitoring results show that different householders are interacting with their home thermal comfort systems in very different ways, and that their responses diverge from the current predictive models. Further analysisexamines the factors influencing responses to thermal discomfort and thereby energy consumption of individual in dwellings.

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