Rica has tested a range of electricity and gas smart meter in-home displays (IHDs). We want to make sure that displays are designed so that all consumers, including those who are older or have a disability, have an IHD that they find easy to use.
Download the consumer usability report here (PDF)
Download the expert appraisal report here (PDF)
Download the research review here (PDF)
Download the usability good practice guide here (PDF)
Smart meter displays: research reports and guidelines
By 2020 the goal is for all homes in the UK to have smart meters. These new electricity and gas meters send electronic readings automatically to your supplier. To go with your smart meter you'll have an in-home display, which gives you real-time readings on your energy usage and what it is costing. It's important for these to be easy to use and read because most of the benefit from having smart meters comes from your being able to use the information they provide to manage your energy use better.
Working with Consumer Focus in 2012 Rica reviewed what has been published about IHD accessibility and inclusive design and completed usability lab trials of IHDs with experts and consumers. As a result we produced guidelines which set out best practice for smart meter display design.
Our research (see links to PDFs, below) shows that:
- All IHDs tested had both good and bad design elements.
- Some people, especially those with poor sight or a severe dexterity impairment (difficulty using their arms, hands or fingers), could not use some of the IHDs at all.
- This was often because the display units were missing basic design requirements like good screen colour contrast or large enough buttons.
- Without these, it's difficult for many people to get any information from the IHDs.
- Designers and manufacturers can make some of these improvements at very low costs.
Since we ran our tests in 2012, some of these display units have stopped being made. However, Rica's research remains the only independent ease-of-use testing in the UK. Inclusive design features, which make smart meter in-home displays usable for people with disabilities, can often make them easier to use for everyone. This is especially helpful when people have to cope with short-term impairments.
- Making energy use visible: Smart meter in-home display usability research with consumers (PDF, 2012)
- Getting to grips with smart displays: An expert appraisal of the usability of in-home energy displays (PDF, 2011)
- Getting to grips with smart displays: Research review (PDF, 2011)
Last updated: October 2018
See also: Central heating controls