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  • 2014morleyphd

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Diversity, Dynamics and Domestic Energy Demand: A Study of Variation in Cooking, Comfort and Computing

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2014
Number of pages262
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis contributes to an understanding of domestic energy demand and its basis in social practice. To date, energy consumption and everyday life have mostly been characterised and connected, if at all, through general trends. Yet attention to diversity within everyday practices, and to the diverse relations to energy consumption, is crucial to the development of nuanced, practice-specific understandings that could inform demand reduction policies. By investigating variations in, and the nature of connections between, energy consumption and practice this thesis reveals and compares the distinctive dynamics of demand in cooking, comfort and computer-use.

The method combines qualitative interviews and energy measurement in a small-scale, detailed study at a site where sources of variation are limited and can thus be compared: student halls of residence. This shows that frequency and type of meal are important in cooking-related energy consumption. The latter reflects diversification in the practice of cooking, which is also linked to a general decline in associated energy use. With respect to thermal comfort, indoor climatic conditions are adjusted in relation to clothing but the operation and energy consumption of heating systems are largely detached from other activities of daily life, even whilst indirectly enabling them. This presents an opportunity for thermal expectations to escalate and converge. Finally, substantial variations in energy use were observed in the diverse and inter-connected practices, services and hardware relating to information, communication and entertainment. This suggests that macro patterns of energy consumption may not simply be increasing but diverging.

In analysing these findings, the thesis discusses the conceptualisation of variation within social practices, the varied roles of materials and the notion of ‘service’ in analysing how practices connect, vary and change. It concludes by outlining new lines of investigation at the intersections of energy, material culture and social practice research.