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Title: An investigation into usability and exclusivity issues of digital programmable thermostats
Authors: Combe, N
Harrison, DJ
Craig, S
Young, MS
Keywords: Inclusive design;Usability;Human factors;NASA Task Load Index;Digital programmable thermostats
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Citation: Journal of Engineering Design, Online Paper, Jul 2011
Abstract: With nearly 60% of domestic energy consumption relating to space heating, the interaction between users and their heating controls is crucial in reducing consumption. Yet, many heating controls are complex and exclude people due to the demands placed upon their capabilities in terms of vision, reach, dexterity and thinking. This study explores the scale of and reasons for user exclusion in relation to digital programmable thermostats. The Exclusion Calculator was used to estimate the percentage of the population excluded from the use of three products. Full user testing was then conducted to elicit specific usability problems of the devices. The participants were a group of 14 younger users (aged 24–44) and 10 older users (aged 62–75). The exclusion calculations underestimated the actual exclusion significantly for both age ranges (p<0.05). None of the older users were able to complete the programming of the thermostats. Additionally, the cognitive demands of these systems were considered using a subjective workload assessment method, based on the NASA Task Load Index, and were found to be excessive. In conclusion, this study makes recommendations to facilitate the design of more inclusive digital programmable thermostats. It is argued that such changes could result in reductions in domestic heat energy consumption.
Description: This is the pre-print version of the Article - Copyright @ 2011 Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0954-4828
Appears in Collections:Design
Dept of Design Research Papers

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