Sensors & Behavior (ARPA-E) > Technology Projects

Disaggregation Survey Paper

Disaggregation refers to the extraction of appliance level energy use data from an aggregate, or whole-building, energy signal, using statistical approaches.

(Figure from Hart, 1992)

Investigators: K. Carrie Armel, Abhay Gupta, Gireesh Shrimali, Adrian Albert

How much of your electric bill is going for your refrigerator? For your entertainment center or air conditioning? Consumer awareness of electricity consumption for specific appliances and devices in homes and small businesses may be the most effective type of energy feedback. However, traditional approaches for getting appliance-specific information require installing expensive hardware throughout the home or office. Another approach is software that elicits energy consumption information about individual appliances and devices from changes in whole-home electricity use at the meter.

This study, "Is Disaggregation the Holy Grail of Energy Efficiency? The Case of Electricity," explained how appliance-level data can provide numerous benefits, such as automated personalized recommendations, and why using algorithms in conjunction with smart meters is the most cost-effective and scalable solution for getting this data. This survey of published studies, supplemented with expert interviews, explained the research, technological and policy requirements for using disaggregation with smart meters successfully and relatively quickly. The study guided a significant amount of the research of Stanford's Sensors & Energy Behavior Initiative. In addition, the paper was viewed on the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center's website more than 60,000 times over 18 months beginning with the posting of a final draft. The published paper was been cited by more than a dozen other published studies in one year.


Publications and Presentations

Is Disaggregation the Holy Grail of Energy Efficiency? The Case of Electricity
Energy Policy, 52, 213–234 (2013)
Armel, K. C., Gupta, A., Shrimali, G., & Albert, A.

  • Without journal access, you may download the paper here: Technical Paper (0.9MB PDF)
  • Video Connectivity Week, Santa Clara, CA, May 22-24, 2012
  • Slide Set (0.9MB PDF) This paper describes how disaggregation can address two timely energy problems - achieving significant low-cost energy reductions in the residential and commercial sectors, and achieving the energy saving potential of the smart grid.

Real-Time Feedback and Electricity Consumption: A Field Experiment Assessing the Potential for Savings and Persistence
The Energy Journal, 34, 87-102 (2013)
Houde, S. Sudarshan, A., Todd, A. Armel, C. & Flora, J.A.

Appliance-specific electricity feedback: Implications for energy conservation programs and policies
Behavior Energy & Climate Change conference (2010)
Houde, S., Todd, A., Sudarshan, A., Flora, J., & Armel, C.

A Randomized Controlled Trial to Evaluate the Power of Information
Behavior Energy & Climate Change conference (2010)
Houde, S., Sudarshan, A., Todd, A., Armel, K.C., Flora, J.A.

Energy and the Environment: Conventional and Unconventional Solutions
The 29th USAEE/IAEE North American Conference, Canada (2010)
Sudarshan, A., Houde, S., Todd, A., Flora, J., & Armel, C.