An investigation into household energy use and the utilization of wet and cold appliances.
The use of domestic appliances and lighting accounts for approximately three-quarters of all
electricity used in the home, making this an important area for energy efficiency. This research
investigates factors contributing to domestic energy-use behaviour by examining environmental
concerns and actions, energy related knowledge, ownership levels and the use of wet and cold
domestic appliances. The technical and social influences in the UK are reviewed and issues
affecting usage and energy consumption are considered.
A comprehensive questionnaire was used to gain background information on the underlying
attitudes and beliefs that underpin energy usage in the home. This was followed by a detailed
field study of 40 households, which focussed on the use of wet and cold appliances. Monitoring
techniques included energy diaries, data logging and energy metering. Short interviews were
conducted with respondents in order to clarify practices, whilst laboratory work was undertaken
to help quantify the energy use of selected appliances in relation to specific variables.
The research shows there is considerable scope for improved energy efficiency by more
discerning usage. Whilst a high level of low temperature washing is already being used, the
number of cycles in washing machines could be reduced considerably by increasing load sizes.
In contrast, the potential to increase the load size in dishwashers is marginal, but a further switch
to low temperature wash programmes would result in some savings.
The majority of cold appliances surveyed were operating outside the recommended temperature
range for much of the monitoring period. In general, households were unaware of this, lacking
both the necessary understanding of recommended temperatures and any means of accurately
assessing operating temperature. In addition to issues of food safety, the resultant energy demand
is lower than might be expected were these appliances giving better temperature performance.
Although limited, the adoption of certain practices can marginally improve the performance and
Whilst financial incentive is a highly motivating factor in the desire to save energy, the low level
of understanding of energy issues in general is likely to act as a barrier to behavioural change.
Although technological improvements can remove some of the potential inefficiencies from the
user decision-making, more optimal energy use cannot be fully realised until the legacy of stock
appliances has been replaced. It remains, therefore, essential that the many agencies associated
with the supply and utilization of domestic appliances should exploit all opportunities to promote
greater awareness of energy demand.