Tag Archive | Energy efficiency


This article is copied from Dan Lockton’s Blog

Powerchord is an ongoing (2014—) exploration of sonifying energy use in near-real time. The prototypes developed so far monitor multiple household electrical appliances in parallel, turning readings of the instantaneous power being drawn into various kinds of sound, providing a form of ambient experiential feedback intended to fit with the soundscapes of everyday domestic life, while (perhaps) enabling a deeper understanding of the characteristics of energy use. The concept was developed, working with Flora Bowden, from ideas suggested by householders during co-creation sessions as part of the European SusLabNWEproject, funded by INTERREG IVB, as part of our wider exploration of the invisibility of energy which also led to the Drawing Energy project. Subsequent development has been self-funded.

Two papers about the project have been published:

Powerchord is designed to use swappable micro-SD cards with sound ‘families’ on them, so complementary (or not) schemes can be chosen or compiled. The version in the videos on this page uses varieties ofbirdsong, of different intensities—from recordings at xeno-canto.org—but initial experiments centred around chords (hence the name) and direct synthesiser mapping, which sounded awful. Working with Claire Matthews, a wider range of sound schemes has subsequently been produced, drawing on ideas suggested by members of the public at the 2014 V&A Digital Design Weekend after they tried it out. The project has also been exhibited, at different stages, at V&A Digital Futures, the UK Art Science Prize, TU Delft’s ‘Human in the Loop’ exhibition, and the Helen Hamlyn Centre show, and is illustrated in the Royal Academy of Engineering‘s Built for Living report.

In a sense, Powerchord is a platform for experimenting with energy sonification. The prototypes shown here use the ‘guts’ of a CurrentCost energy monitor (one of the most common UK types—and which can also be used to read gas meter data), which reads power values from wireless individual appliance monitors, and is then connected to an Arduino which reads the XML data stream from the monitor and maps the power levels to particular tracks, played using a WAV Trigger. The next iteration, in progress, is based around a (more reliable) method of using EDF EcoManager transmitter plugs, developed by Jack Kelly at Imperial College London.

Of course the form here is not fully resolved—the picture frame format was partly to enable it to fit into domestic settings in a way which was obviously different to a conventional energy monitor, but also, perhaps, to attempt to show the system deconstructed, not quite in a Daniel Weil way, but also inspired byCoralie Gourguechon’s work. This is the sort of modern wireless product that doesn’t really need to have any obvious form: it could be in a box, a bag, a tube, anything. It could just be a small hidden unit transmitting to a stereo or home entertainment system, or Bluetooth speakers.


Influencing people’s energy use is a major research topic across multiple technological and social science disciplines. Feedback displays for electricity or gas, and smart meters, which enable additional networked functionality, such as adaptive pricing changes, have shown some influence on people’s actions, but the situation is complex: simple numerical feedback may not take account of the realities of household life, or people’s understanding of units and quantities, nor link people to wider understanding of the energy system. Some work, e.g. by the Interactive Institute, has sought to bring an ‘ambient’ approach.

The invisibility of energy emerged from interviews and workshops with householders I ran with Flora Bowden as a major issue in householders’ lack of understanding, contributing to energy waste. This suggested opportunities for visualisation beyond numbers, but also non-visually, for example sonification. In co-creation with householders, it was suggested that being able to ‘listen’ to whether appliances were switched on, the relative magnitude and characteristics of their energy use, and what state they were in (e.g. listening to a washing machine will give a good idea as to where it is in its cycle), was potentially useful. There are echoes of early work in calm technology and ubiquitous computing, such as Natalie Jeremijenko’s Live Wire (Dangling String), and Murray Schafer’s concept of soundscapes. Sonification can potentially enable ambient, peripheral comprehension of data with multiple dimensions, including pattern recognition and detecting state changes.

My initial experiments were with summary sonification—in a university office, with a kettle, a laser printer, and a gang socket for a row of desks monitored over 12 hours, turning the power use data into a three-track 30-second MIDI file, with lower pitches representing higher power, and vice versa (a householder suggestion), and hourly drumbeat ‘ticks’.


Paintsmiths visit Heron Road by Felix ‘FLX’ Braun and Jack ‘Dones’

The Scaffolding recently came down on a new mural from Paintsmiths which, for this work, was Felix and Jack Tiernay for Bristol City Council and the Warm Up Bristol Campaign show home over at 56 Heron Road, Easton, BS5.

The mural itself is a stunning piece of work showing off the house itself and lots of examples of the old types of energy and the new sustainable energies that are now available.


Visit Warm Up Bristol’s show home

We’ve created a show home in Easton so that you can see first hand how you can make your home warmer with energy saving insulation and other measures. Come along and find out what a difference our energy saving measures can make!

Show home opening times?

You will be able to visit the property at 56 Heron Road, Easton, BS5 0LU throughout 2016 on the following days:

  • Tuesday: 9.30 – 4.30
  • Thursday: 9.30 – 4.30
  • Saturday: 10.30 – 2.30

Why visit the show home?

At our show home you will be able to see what energy saving measures can be installed in a Victorian era mid-terrace property. We have installed underfloor insulation throughout the ground floor, new insulation to the bathroom ceiling/roof space, internal wall insulation in the kitchen and bathroom and external wall insulation to the front and back of the property. We have new double-glazed windows that have humidity reactive trickle vents, a passive ventilation unit in the kitchen and bathroom and many simpler and cheaper to install measures including low flow taps and draught-proofing. The show home has been retrofitted with new energy saving improvements by one of Bristol’s SME’s Urbane ECO and was funded via Warm Up Bristol.

Our community partners, Easton Energy Group, are managing the property and will be there to explain the different measures available, show you samples and help you register for our initiative. They will also be hosting other activities such as knit and natter sessions and hosting the travelling seamstress who will help you make your own draught-proofing sausage dog as a cheap and simple way to keep those draughts at bay and make your home warmer to live in.

Hu2 – Save the world one room at a time


Hu2 is a design and art company founded on principles of sustainability and social responsibility. The brand adheres to the philosophy of creating unique, locally produced and resilient design and art whilst reducing negative impact on the environment through proficient design and the use of sustainable materials.

The award-winning design and production studio has launched various eco-designs including wall decals, 3D wall signs, typography and art prints, all designed by French artist and designer Antoine Tes-Ted.

The concept for the light switch and power socket wall decals – the Hu2 Eco Reminders – was born from Tes-Ted’s passion for designing and developing functional, thought-provoking art that challenges reflection, creates awareness and ultimately leads to constructive action; the Founder and Creative Director of Hu2 Design spends much of his time working with Hu2’s charitable foundation and advocating the positive effects design can have on environmental issues.

It can be challenging to bear in mind the long-term consequences of wasting natural resources, especially when single actions have little visible impact. Therefore, the Hu2 Eco Reminders can help change everyday habits and reduce excessive use of electricity and water through simple, contemporary and bold design. Each decal is handcrafted at Hu2 Design’s production studio in France using local, environmentally conscious manufacturing methods.

Hu2 Founder and Creative Director, Antoine Tes-Ted, said: “As a kid, I was told off by my mother whenever I would leave the lights on. The idea of making an effort to save energy and consequently contributing to a better world really stuck with me.” Tes-Ted’s childhood lessons developed into a strong environmental calling – the creative inspiration behind the Eco Reminder series.

Produced from PVC-free, fully recyclable materials as well as 100% biodegradable packaging, the Eco Reminder decals are easy to install onto any flat surface, both indoors and outdoors. The designs provide an attention-grabbing call to action to say the least – save the world one room at a time!

The Eco Reminder decals can be bought in the Hu2 Online Store: www.hu2.com