Tapestry Project — Real time metering and resident behavior

Shahzeen Attari, Sabine Marx, Troy Simpson, Elke Weber, Gautam Gowrisankaran

The “Tapestry” is a mixed income “green” residential building with 185 apartment units in East Harlem, New York. Jonathan Rose Companies (JRC) partnered with ThinkEco, a start-up company developing a device called the “Modern Outlet“ (or “Modlet”) that is designed to provide minute-by-minute, device-by-device energy feedback to participants via a Web-based interface. The purpose of this research is to gather information on the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors our participants regarding household electricity use and conservation in a residential format. We are using 1) apartment-level utility data, 2) plug load-level energy use data, and 3) a resident survey to explore these relationships. The study will enter a baseline period before the execution of an intervention period that will conclude by the end of 2012. Interventions include: allowing residents to monitor their energy use via ThinkEco’s web portal; allowing residents to schedule turning on and turning off appliances and devices; offering tailored suggestions for energy conservation. The interventions will be introduced at monthly intervals. Thereafter, data analysis will commence to explore the relationship between the aforementioned pre-survey responses (e.g., perceptions of energy use) and energy use behavior following the installation of the Modlets.


Major Findings (From initial data analysis of the pre-survey conducted in 2011):

  • Electricity Perceptions: Resident perceptions of electricity use among twenty-one common household devices (in various states of operation) showed over-estimation of energy use of devices in low-use states and under-estimation of energy use of devices in high-use states, which aligns with existing research by Attari.
  • New Technology: No significant relationships were found between resident income and interest in purchasing plug-by-plug energy monitoring devices. 96% of residents reported an interest in using such devices in their homes.
  • Concern for Climate Change and Global Warming: 38% of participants responded feeling “A little” concern for global warming, while 40% responded feeling “A fair amount” of concern. 7% of residents reported being “Not at all” concerned, whereas 15% reported “A great deal” of concern. There were no significant differences between income levels for these responses.
  • Data analysis from metered household’s energy usage is ongoing.


Broader impacts

  • This study helps us to explore the accuracy of our participants’ perceptions of household electricity use, as well as how they actually use electricity in their homes over time when provided the opportunity to use minute-by-minute energy tracking devices in their homes. Even basic lessons about these dynamics could be applied to the development and refinement of energy monitoring devices and their user interfaces.


CRED2 Award (2010-2015): Funding was provided under the cooperative agreement NSF SES-0951516 awarded to the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions.