Kids and thermostats: Understanding children's involvement with household energy systems

Michael S. Horn*, Zeina Atrash Leong, Michael D. Greenberg, Reed Stevens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We present a study of family practices around the use of thermostats to control residential heating and cooling systems. Our analysis is focused on the role of children and adolescents and factors that affect their participation in the management of household energy consumption. As "smart" technologies become more common in homes, our goal is to understand how we might involve parents and children together in learning about issues of environmental sustainability. Based on interviews with families, thermostat installers, and a thermostat designer, our findings suggest that thermostats tend to be adult-only devices. Children rarely (and sometimes never) adjust the temperature or program settings, and there appears to be limited opportunity for youth to become more involved as they get older. We encountered variation in family practices along dimensions such as age, economic situation, environmental attitudes, and type of heating and cooling equipment. Despite this variation, however, there was a pervasive lack of interest and awareness on the part of children, even among those who reported adjusting thermostats on occasion. Based on these findings, we discuss how this situation might be changed through the design of new technologies to raise awareness while creating more active and distributed participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-22
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Child-Computer Interaction
StatePublished - 2015


  • Children
  • Design
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Families
  • Homes
  • Thermostats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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