Money saver: Smart meter
Could advice and feedback be the answer saving energy in the home?
The building sector, when looking to increase sustainability, generally looks for engineering solutions to problems. This is understandable; you can say with a fair amount of certainty that technology X will save this much energy, because it has this U value of thermal insulation or that amount of microgeneration capacity. The problem being that, although a measurable cut in carbon saving can be made and money saved in the long term, they can cost a lot. For example, a project on which I
am working has forked out the better part of £3,000 for solar hot water
systems, just to discover they’ll have a payback of fifty years (plus) and save roughly 6% of a household’s energy bills. But there is something with no upfront costs which can save money and carbon, and that’s a change in behaviour.
There is a dearth in the academic literature on how a change in behaviour can lead to a change in energy use, particularly when compared to the volume of information on solar, PV, heat pumps and other renewable. But this information does actually exist!
A study by Groningen University (Netherlands) found that a saving of over 5% could be made in a household’s energy just by keeping the homeowner or tenant informed of their energy costs and giving a small amount of feedback and advice on energy saving tips. 5% might not seem like a great deal, but this would account for around an eighth of the target CO2 savings by 2020 for the housing sector, without having to spend big capital upfront – and remember, this is the same percentage of energy saving as the solar thermal panels on my modelled sample of properties!
However, such a scheme is difficult to implement, how do you keep providing a household with feedback on their bills and give face-to-face advice on a regular basis? Well, quite easily, it turns out! The one to one advice and regular reminders of costs from a researcher can be just as easily substituted for an electronic interface. Stick and energy “smart meter” on your bench and you’re away! In fact, smarty meters in trials have proved even more impressive than the personal touch. As much as a 20% saving can be made in households where smart meters are fitted, and all for around £25 – not too expensive considering you might save £400 in a year!
If you’re reading this blog (and you’re not just unlucky enough to have stumbled upon it by chance) then the chances are that the savings will be more modest; you’re already interested in energy saving. However, having had a bit of experience of these devices, you become completely obsessed with switching things off! Why not give it a go? After all, what’s £25?! Stick it on your bench and let me know in the comments how you get on!