Habit-Learning Device will Lower Energy Bills Under New Clean Energy Cashback Scheme

Feb 04, 2010
Habit-Learning Device will Lower Energy Bills Under New Clean Energy Cashback Scheme
Wattbox

(PhysOrg.com) -- Smart control units that learn householders' energy habits and provide immediate feedback on consumption could give home energy savings of up to 20% without compromising comfort.

The new energy-saving ‘Wattbox’ device is part of an innovative approach to improvements supported by a £2.1 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

As well as working with standard energy supplies, the Wattbox will help people get the most out investments, such as , made in line with the recently-announced feed-in tariffs for small-scale renewable schemes.

Working with householders, an earlier project found that existing home heating controls, such as timers and thermostats, often make it difficult for people to cut because they are too complicated to set correctly. But by designing an intelligent, that takes the complexity out of the controls, the team found that on heating and hot water alone could be reduced by up to 14%.

The Wattbox’s heating controller sets its own schedule by learning householders’ habits according to the times they use hot water and switch on . From this, it sets the thermostat to suit the householder’s lifestyle taking account of the outside temperature.

The device has a simple display with buttons for ‘More Heat’ or ‘Less Heat’ when the automatic decision doesn’t meet the user’s needs. It also shows how much more, or less, energy is being consumed as a result of their choice. Hot water is provided just before its normal time of use to save energy, with the display turning red to show that the water is ready.

“These devices work because we put people at the centre of our research,” says Peter Boait of De Montfort University, who designed the intelligent heating controls as part of a multidisciplinary project investigating ways of reducing energy while maintaining comfort.

There is strong evidence to suggest that giving people immediate feedback on their energy consumption encourages them to make savings.

LCD displays showing electricity consumption are not new, but they usually only show the total electricity used in the home. The team is now planning to work with householders to design stylish and intuitive controls that will tell them how their home is using energy at a particular time and what choices they can make to result in lower energy use. A key part of the design is that they will be fun to use.

Allowing people to save energy without needing to understand the science is one of the key benefits of the Wattbox. This makes it particularly useful for encouraging people to adopt green technologies, such as heat pumps and solar hot water heating, which can be alienating in their complexity.

“Influencing user behaviour can be challenging,” says Dr Boait, and he points to a decade of campaigns urging consumers to save energy. “Involving people in the design of technology and in developing energy reduction strategies offers a new opportunity to make real cuts without undermining comfort.”

Explore further: Website shines light on renewable energy resources

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

U.S. scientists develop better heat pump

Jan 18, 2007

U.S. homeowners might soon see their electric bills decreasing thanks to an integrated heat pump system developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Recommended for you

Website shines light on renewable energy resources

23 hours ago

A team from the University of Arizona and eight southwestern electric utility companies have built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the ...

Better software cuts computer energy use

Dec 18, 2014

An EU research project is developing tools to help software engineers create energy-efficient code, which could reduce electricity consumption at data centres by up to 50% and improve battery life in smart ...

Cook farm waste into energy

Dec 17, 2014

It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.

Developing a reliable wind 'super grid' for Europe

Dec 17, 2014

EU researchers are involved in the development of a pan-European 'super grid' capable of dispersing wind power across Member States. This will bring more renewable energy into homes and businesses, help reduce ...

Boeing 737 factory to move to clean energy

Dec 16, 2014

Boeing said Tuesday it plans to buy renewable energy credits to replace fossil-fuel power at the factory in Washington state where it assembles its 737 commercial airplanes.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.