Smart system savings

Great article published last week by Ian Randall in the Express about how Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) hold the key to unlocking energy savings.

Energy savings: Smart system may save £600 off energy bills

A cheap and simple-to-install smart home system being developed by a UK company for launch in October could slash a whopping £600 off of the average energy bill, has been told.

The “Home Energy Management Systems” (HEMS) are the brainchild of geo (Green Energy Options), a Cambridge-based firm that has already provided seven million homes with energy display units — but is now looking to take such gadgets further. As geo’s CEO Steve Cunningham told “The energy displays we made weren’t linked to anything else. They talked to the smart meters, they gave the consumer information. It was all about just visualising what the use of energy did, you know — when did you have more load in the house? How much was that really costing you?”

Rather than just displaying information, HEMS analyse household energy usage and can help out by automatically delivering cost and carbon savings and making helpful power-saving recommendations.

It does this by interfacing not only with a smart meter, but also with smart plugs, thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves around the house.

For example, the system can control existing gas boilers such that they heat their homes more efficiently, using less gas and slashing 10–15% off the average heating bill.

Furthermore, proximity sensors allow the built-in AI to work out when the house is empty and automatically turn down the heating — slashing another 5% off of the energy bill in the average home.

Alongside this, the smart home system is capable of tracking how energy prices fluctuate across the day, and then help coordinate device usage in order to secure savings.

So, for example, HEMS could request permission to defer the operation of washing machines, dishwashers, etc. to a slightly later time that would be more economical.

Mr Cunningham explained: “We’ll pick up that the washing machine is running and we’ll then look at when it would currently run and what that would cost.

“We do this very, very quickly — so, it’s real time.

“We then look at the best time that we could run it that’s reasonably close to when you set it and then we will ping — both onto the energy display and either through our app or the energy supplier’s app — to say ‘it looks like a washing machine is running, if you’d like to save X, whatever X is, we can offer them savings.

“The householder is not doing anything to their behaviour.”

In a similar fashion, he explained, HEMS might offer to switch your fridge off for a few minutes once a day at a peak time for the grid to save money.

In fact, the firm estimates that optimising white goods use in this way has the potential to save the average consumer £30 a year in energy costs.

The same principle can be applied to ensuring that electric vehicles (EVs) are charged at off-peak hours, which Green Energy Options says can reduce the cost of charging by up to 73 percent — or around £700 a year — for an EV that does 10,000 miles per year with a vehicle efficiency of three miles per kilowatt hour.

And alongside this, the Home Energy Management System can also make other cost-cutting recommendations based on its analysis of household energy usage, such as reminding homeowners not to leave devices like televisions on standby.

In fact, the system is designed to provide users with a disaggregation of their energy expenses — much like modern credit card bills can do with purchases — breaking bills down into eight categories.

These include heating, washing, refrigeration, hot water, entertainment, cooking, EV charging, and a miscellaneous category.

The system will also be able to provide a virtual energy performance certificate for each home overall to allow users to see how such is performing.

Because the system can work with smart plugs, Mr Cunningham explained, adopting the HEMS system doesn’t call for homeowners to change all their white goods for the latest, fanciest smart models.

Instead, they just need to pick up a few smart plugs — which, at present, can be purchased for around £12–14, he said.

The system will be built to use Matter, a unified smart home interoperability standard that is being adopted by such firms as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Tesla.

Green Energy Options told that they will shortly be signing a deal with a major energy supplier to roll out HEMS devices across the country starting by October this year.

The idea is that installations will be included in the smart meter rollout — so there will be no direct cost to the consumer to adopt the energy management system.

They expect to bring other energy suppliers on board in due course, with plans to produce a whopping four million of the smart home systems over the next 18 months.

Rolled out at scale by suppliers, the firm concluded, “Home Energy Management Systems can play a key role in delivering a more flexible energy network which could help reduce [the UK’s] energy bills by £12billion a year by 2050.”