Angry switch/passive homes

Tio light switch

Two items which have caught the Homesense team’s eye in the past week for you then…

First up is the ‘Tio’ light switch, pictured above. Tio has been developed as a way of making children aware of their energy consumption, demonstrating their knowledge of energy conservation to their families, and “encouraging their role as energy champions of the home”. It’s been developed as a light switch with a face that gets progressively more angry (green -> red, frowny eyebrows) the longer the lights are left on. Whilst the system is linked to a computer allowing kids to monitor their energy use, I’m particularly interested in the way that children interact with the switch itself. What is the effect of making energy use ‘bad’ and anger-making? Does the switch act to punish or reward? Do kids have any opportunity to personalise the switch around their own behaviour? It’s interesting stuff.

Next up, a New York Times piece on “passive homes” – buildings designed to require up to 90% less heating and cooling energy than their counterparts through the inclusion of sunlight management systems; heat exchangers (which replace stale air from in the house with fresh air from outside); triple glazed windows; and super-insulated walls. There are a bunch of similarities between these buildings and the more tech-heavy current ‘smart homes’. Whilst these ‘passive buildings’ are designed from the bottom up to meet the specific needs of their owners, they are also fiercely expensive. Costs go both into the materials and build for the home, and also towards the design consultancy services from specialist architecture firms. The article also makes the interesting point that these services are likely to continue to be pricey due to the fledgling nature of the industry and the need for more rigourous benchmarking around energy standards.

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