Sustainable home heating practices
Household energy consumption is a key strand of CONSENSUS’s research. In Ireland, home heating accounts for around 60% of direct household energy consumption, over 90% of which is fossil fuel-powered. This poses issues for climate change, energy security and social equality due to high fuel costs. Our research seeks to identify socio-technical innovations and action plans for more sustainable home heating practices in Irish households. We address this question using a process of practice-oriented-participatory (POP) backcasting (outlined here). POP backcasting involves stakeholders and members of the public in the collective design and evaluation of future scenarios for sustainable heating practices, ultimately developing long-term action plans for their achievement.
The backcasting process began with a Visioning Workshop stimulating interdisciplinary stakeholders to imagine alternative ways we could deliver the needs of home heating (namely warmth, comfort and wellbeing) in the future in less resource-intensive ways. The resultant scenarios contain integrated innovations in hardware, the built environment, regulations and systems of provision, along with alternative social norms, expectations and heating skills. This holistic consideration of the constellation of tools, meanings and skills that constitute everyday practices drew upon social practice theory. Each scenario (depicted below and elaborated here) shows alternative ways of delivering personal warmth and comfort in the home.
Transitioning towards promising heating practices
After scenario evaluation phases and citizen-consumer workshops, Promising Practices for sustainable heating were identified. Many of these were based around supporting a shift from whole-home heating towards targeted heating strategies enabled by advanced controls, embedded thermostats, layering of clothing and body heat vests. A recurrent theme was the requirement for greater personal awareness of thermal needs, acceptance of more variable ambient temperatures and the adoption of adaptive heating strategies. Ultimately, Transition Frameworks were developed with Irish energy stakeholders containing R&D, policy and educational interventions for the achievement of more sustainable heating practices. The images above show a brief overview of Promising Practices and Transition Frameworks while full details can be found here.
We are continuing to explore these results with key stakeholders.
Some outputs are outlined below, for more information see Publications tab
- Sustainable heating: visioning workshop and transition workshop presentations
- Sustainable heating scenarios & stories
- Sustainable heating practices: Transition Framework document
- Doyle, R., and Davies, A., R. (2013) Towards sustainable household consumption: exploring a practice oriented, participatory backcasting approach for sustainable home heating practices in Ireland. Journal of Cleaner Production, 48, 259-270