Nova Volt

This project is currently in the iteration phase.

Nova Volt is a conceptual solar app that translates research into design. The goal is to reduce electricity bills and shorten the payback period for solar panel owners.
my role
6 weeks - present
UX Researcher
Product Designer
Figma, Adobe Illustrator
Led by previous Principal Design Technologist at Bank of America, currently Professor at SCAD, Lee Cody, the project is to research problems across any industry, consider the potential of smart home technology as a design solution.
research focus
As an environmentalist, sustainable energy deeply interests me. I began exploring current solar industry's problems through secondary research. I also conducted primary research with solar panel owners to identify problems and explore design opportunities.

◦ Research Insights

Based on the secondary data from Forbes Home, Statista, and, I have found out that:


U.S homeowners want solar power to save money on utility bills


U.S homeowners hesitate to switch to solar is due to upfront cost

8-9 years

Average payback period of solar panels.

◦ Ideation

Upfront cost is the main reason why people are not investing in solar. Since it takes an average of 8 to 9 years for individuals to see positive returns on their solar energy investment, if we can shorten the payback period, we can definitely bring up the value in solar energy. Payback period is the number of years it will take for the solar panels to essentially "pay for themselves" through savings.

A design constraint I have was the requirement to design a physical product for this project, leading me to choose smart outlet as an initial solution to help achieve the goal.

Design Goal: How might we shorten the payback period?

Solution 1: Maximizing Energy Savings with Smart Outlets
hypothesis 1
Behavior in energy consumption can be optimized by informing users about their energy consumption behaviors and providing recommendations for them to apply.
hypothesis 2
The smart outlet system can optimize the energy use based on applied insights and recommendations, leading to increased energy savings stored in the battery or resulting in additional utility credits reflected on the bill.
initial usability test
I conducted the test with solar panel owners and non solar panel owners. I found that many users are indifferent to their energy-saving habits and feel confused when trying to adopt new ones. The insights on energy consumption are helpful, but users feel uncertain if the smart outlet can significantly aid in energy savings. The term 'Savings' in this design confuses users who don't have battery storage.

TL;DR: People care more about not having to constrain the usage. Flexibility in energy consumption is the key.

◦ Iterations

After receiving initial feedback and conducting preliminary research, I revisited my study, asking what else might shorten the payback period. Is it financial incentives, awareness of timing, or a lack of knowledge that's the issue? Considering offering community resource as a solution might also be worthwhile.

Iteration Research Goal: What are other factors that can shorten the payback period?
initial iteration
Here's my preliminary iteration based on the smart home solution. The other solutions will be updated here in May 2024.