Research of Consumer Technology and Product Use

Research topics

Consumer behaviour and technology

The research theme is dedicated to the reaction of consumers on changes in the functional performance of household technology and the degree in which they modify their usage pattern so that the required performance level of household processes is restored. The impact of these changes on the total environmental impact of the household function is evaluated.

In a present research the behaviour of the user is monitored in field experiments where the process performance of a product was changed (measuring parameters like energy or water consumption and usage frequency of appliances) to assess the impact on functionality and on the consumption pattern of a household.

In another study the variation in user behaviour is studied to assess possible risks of exposure to chemical substances used in households.

Household sanitation and domestic water use

In recent years water consumption on the level of appliances, technical equipment and processes decreased substantially, but these reductions have not led to a decline of domestic water consumption. Research shows that the decrease of water use due to water saving equipment is substantially lower than was expected beforehand. Re-use and cascadation of water flows within the household system are promising reduction options. Dynamic computer simulations with various models of household systems revealed reductions in the range of 40 to 50%. In the latter example the use of storm water was included. Follow-up research will focus on further optimisation, energy recuperation and microbiological implications as well as hurdles for social acceptance and technical feasibility. For these aims laboratory simulations and a real life scale pilot project are foreseen.

Adoption of sustainable technology

This research is aimed to reveal the underlying causes of the lack of acceptation of various energy saving options. A present study investigates what hurdles could exist on consumers level and on the level of household logistics and strategies. On the bases of the first results it can be predicted that the saving potential of several measures or technical changes is only a fraction of the ones calculated by technical or economic experts. Bottlenecks in household consumption are discovered in surveys focusing on typical logistics and strategies. Studies on product use reveal inefficiencies that can be decreased by adaptations in product design.

Hygiene and consumer safety

Sustainability measures on household level often deal with energy reduction and reduced usage of non-biodegradable or aggressive chemicals. For processes where water has to be heated energy reduction often is achieved by lowering of the temperatures. This and the use of less aggressive or biodegradable chemicals may deteriorate the level of hygiene. Research showed indeed a substantial impact of mainly temperature lowering in a number of cleaning processes.

Other research is focused on the assessment of the actual hygienic situation in households in daily practice.