A smarter way to manage home energy consumption
September 9, 2020
We are facing a conundrum: how do we manage increasing consumer energy demands with the fundamental need to protect the planet?
For homeowners, it is likely to be a balancing act between meeting mounting energy costs and learning to adapt our behaviour. Either way, it will impact everyone.
According to Ofgem, energy bills averaged £1184 per household per annum in 2019*. This represents an increase of 20% in little over 3 years for electricity customers. There are predictions that gas prices will rise as much as 20% between 2017 and 2030**.
So far, the response from the housing construction industry has been sluggish. New build innovation has been limited to using new construction materials. Light switches and heating control programmers remain largely unchanged in their function since their inception around 100 years ago. Similarly, little has changed in the wiring of houses beyond the mandatory changes to wiring regulations for valid safety reasons.
The need to innovate is urgent and there are opportunities presented by technology that can make new build homes intuitive, adaptable, efficient and, importantly, kinder on the planet.
It is the combination of smarter controls of heating and lighting with greater levels of home intel and data which is powerful. Using these together will directly contribute to the reduction of home carbon emissions and household bills.
Easy programming around our lifestyles
Full control over our homes’ daily schedules is key to benefit even the most dynamic busy family lifestyles. Historically, room programmers to do this are often unsightly additions to the wall and too small and complex to configure in detail, with no link between individual rooms. Knowing that humans are usually creatures of habit, set programmes that understand, and mirror household routines are vital. The importance of easy programming is therefore equally essential, or else it will soon become a laborious task that will be neglected with the consequential impact on energy consumption.
How many times have we gone away for a weekend and neglected to turn down the heating and hot water? Technology now enables our homes to tell when the house is empty for long periods and automatically tells the homeowner to turn down the system.
These unobtrusive and even imperceptible controls, particularly of heating, contribute substantially to maximum energy optimisation, but with little increased attention or effort. Few would turn down reduced energy bills and increased comfort, all for very little recurring effort.
Simpler and smarter control of heating is where technology is having a major impact on energy consumption. Traditional heating programmers have progressed very little in terms of functionality or have ceded advances to increased complexity.
Now technologies enable simple control through touch screens with advanced programming covering everything from weather compensation to motion sensors and sleep mode. These controls with energy usage information are accessible on smart phone apps so homeowners can remain connected to their homes even when out and about.
Data can now be collected from numerous points around the house, even from smart switches. These are primarily light switches and are usually located at the optimal height for measuring room temperature. The controller will take these diverse temperature readings and smartly manage demand to the boiler and pump for efficient heating. Helpfully, these smart switches can also control any and all lights around the property.
Making the most of data
As smart meters become ever more prevalent in homes, the commonly held assumption is that the information they provide on usage leads automatically to better energy conservation. Yet, if our smart meter or monthly energy bill is indicating higher consumption than we would like, what can we do? Today we know very little about our homes, whether a fallback temperature setting of 14°C or 15°C is more efficient, whether the hot water is better left on or heated when needed? We’re flying blind into the battle with climate change.
However, latest smart home technologies provide detailed data by taking readings throughout the home and so revealing much more about our homes. With this data the controller can understand the properties and behaviours of the home. This data can prove (or disprove) the SAP Energy rating in the real world and go far beyond that in guiding more efficient energy usage.
In our temperate climate here in the UK, the unpredictable spring and autumn weather makes for plenty of discussion around heating settings and scheduling. It is common in these months to have weeks of wildly fluctuating weather and temperatures. We probably spend a quarter of our year in this hiatus. However, if we can foresee lower winds, higher temperatures or clearer skies a heating system can learn to hold off on aggressively driving the house temperature up first thing in the morning, or it could intuitively turn off early with the information that the sun will take-over an hour or two later.
The more data we can fuel into our smart home technology, the greater we can enable energy, economic and environmental savings.
Change is here
The fundamental shift is the need for greater control and data, but not intrusion. It marks a major step forward in the transformation of home controls and energy management. We believe this is just the start of the journey.
Baulogic has been innovating in this space for some time and the outcome is the development of a single solution for new build homes offering convenience and simplicity in the control of heating, lighting, ambience, security and the management of energy usage.
* According to Ofgem’s analysis of companies’ Consolidated Segmental Statements in August 2019 the average energy bill for UK households was £1184 per annum. For electricity customers this reflected an increase of 20% in a little over 3 years.
** The Committee for Climate Change’s report of Energy Prices & Bills in March 2017 reveals predictions of 20% higher gas prices by 2030 compared to 2017.