Larissa Nicholls

Monash University
Air conditioning and purification practices in response to Australian bushfires

Air conditioned cooling is a major contributor to peak electricity demand in Australia. As the 2019–20 bushfire season exposed large populations to smoke, health authorities advised people to remain indoors and use air conditioning to reduce exposure to potentially harmful air quality conditions. Many households purchased air purifiers. 

Nicholls will present findings from digital ethnographic interviews conducted as part of the Digital Energy Futures project. She will discuss the experiences of bushfire smoke and associated indoor air practices – including cooling and air purification – alongside implications for future home practices; the role of digitalisation and smart appliances; and critical system impacts including future energy demand, energy reliability, and carbon emissions. 

About Nicholls

Nicholls specialises in bringing deeper understandings of household practices and concerns into Australia’s ongoing policy debates about energy affordability, sustainability and reliability. The impacts of energy policy and emerging technologies for vulnerable and disadvantaged households are a key research focus. Her industry-relevant research supports consumer advocacy and energy organisation decision-making towards better outcomes for households. 

Her human-computer interaction research includes smart homes, distributed electricity generation, and other digital technologies. Nicholls’ applied research projects involve in-home ethnographic research to explore interactions between energy (technologies, usage, pricing, communications) and social, physical, and financial wellbeing.