Smart meter learns behaviour to reduce energy use

Bath university researchers tests out meters that are much better at helping reduce energy consumption
22nd September 2017

Researchers at Bath University have developed a new intelligent smart energy meter that learns from users behaviour to suit their own home usage and automatically save them money.

“We have shown that presenting energy data and feedback in a clear and understandable way has a positive effect on the energy behaviour of home owners”

 

The iBert technology was tested in 47 homes and uses a small number of cheap sensors to gather the data required to advise home owners about their energy usage, then make recommendations for how to save money based on observing the houses’ energy usage over the previous week or more.

This data allows the meter to predict what the building is made of and how the home owners are using it, and how much energy is being wasted through aspects such as windows being left open; the heating being on when the house is unoccupied; and appliances such as televisions left on standby.

Thermal modelling

Working with Exeter City Council, the team used simple language to communicate with home owners about their energy usage. Unlike any smart meter displays, it uses a thermal model of the building and its occupants, enabling it to make useful and accurate recommendations to home owners when they are demonstrating poor energy usage.

For example, if a home owner’s central heating stayed on until 10am each day despite the house being unoccupied by 8am, the device would calculate the amount of money being wasted and suggest the home owner adjust their heating clock to 8am. Instead of just relying on monetary waste as a motivational factor, the system can also “speak” in non-monetary units such as loss of tree cover, tons of carbon or cost to society – thus aligning itself to differently motivated households.

The recommendations are presented via a smart phone or a computer allowing homeowners to clearly see where they are being energy inefficient and how much money they could potentially save from altering their behaviour.

“Current smart meters are limited in their ability to help reduce energy consumption. This needs to change.”

 

“We have shown that presenting energy data and feedback in a clear and understandable way has a positive effect on the energy behaviour of home owners,” said David Coley, project lead and Professor of Low Carbon Design at the University. “For the first time, a smart metering system has been designed to help people learn what they need to do, and only interact with them if they might be being profligate.

“Current smart meters are being rolled out across the country at a cost of a staggering £11 billion but, through design, are limited in their ability to help reduce energy consumption. This needs to change.”

Residential energy accounts for 23% of total energy consumption worldwide, third after industry (37%) and transportation (28%). In the UK, residential energy consumption represents 29% of total energy use which translates to roughly 12% of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

You can find out more about the ENLITEN project at Bath which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).