Using Public Participation to Improve MELs Energy Data Collection
Miscellaneous and electronic loads (MELs) comprise an increasing share of building energy consumption. Large-scale data collection is needed to inform meaningful energy reduction strategies because of the diversity of MELs and our lack of understanding about how people use them. Traditional methods of data collection, however, usually incur high labor and metering equipment expenses. As an alternative, this paper investigates the feasibility of crowdsourcing data collection to satisfy at least part of the data collection needs with acceptable accuracy. We assessed the reliability and accuracy of crowd-sourced data by recruiting 18 volunteers and testing our crowdsourcing protocol. The protocol asked volunteers to perform measurement tasks for three MELs devices of increasing complexity – 1) record power meter and MELs product characteristics, 2) identify and measure all power modes available, and 3) report the measured power. Volunteers performed reasonably well for devices with functionalities with which they were familiar, but many could not correctly identify all available power modes in complex devices. Accuracy may improve when participants measure the power used by familiar devices in their home, or by providing more specific instructions, e.g. videos. Furthermore, crowdsourcing data collection from individual homeowners has the potential to generate valuable information about MELs energy use in homes when integrated with existing programs such as Home Energy Saver and Building America.