Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Smart metering displays

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. We've found that all the IHDs we tested have good and bad points, but a few have design problems which make them impossible for some people 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

All homes in the UK will have smart meters installed by 2019. These new electricity and gas meters send electronic readings to your energy supplier automatically so that your meter doesn't need to be read before you're sent a bill. To go with your smart meter you will 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 2011-12, Rica asked

We reviewed what has been published about IHD accessibility and inclusive design. We have also produced guidelines which set out best practice for smart meter display design.

Woman testing smart meter; a range of smart meters

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 2011-12, 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.

Research reports

Design guidelines

Last updated: May 2015


See also: Central heating controls