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Is your smart meter really that smart?

All across the UK homes are being fitted with smart meters that claim to make energy use more visible, but the question has been raised as to whether this will actually reduce energy consumption. With three quarters of the British public in favour of smart meters and the sharing of energy use data, the hopes are high and the government plans to have the smart technology installed in every home and business before the closing of the decade. But will homeowners actually pay attention to their metres and monitor more efficient appliances in their home or use as much as they always have to meet their needs? Lets take a look:

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters help people to understand and quantify their energy use. The give real-time accurate results about energy use instead of estimations like traditional meters. Homeowners can either request a report from the energy company who supplies the energy for their home or they can install a display at home. Homeowners will be able to compare their energy use on a month-to-month basis as well as look at past consumption.

Why they will be helpful

For the most part, homeowners hugely underestimate the energy use of appliances in the home such as the energy that a dishwasher uses, or a washing machine. Smart meters will help homeowners to understand how much energy they are actually using. Research does support the idea that homeowners are more conscientious of energy use when they know which appliance use what.

Is the smart meter the answer?

There is concern that smart meters may not be the answer in capturing the attention of homeowners and that the cost of installing the meters may be a waste. Competition has suggested that weblinks or a smartphone app would not only be cheaper but a better way of reaching the community of homeowners. Others have argued that these alternatives, however, are more likely to distract homeowners and are better as complimentary services.

Basic Human Behaviour

When it comes to changing people and their habits, steps need to be small and powerful but easy to do. People generally enjoy helping the environment. It gives them a feeling of achievement; makes them feel like they are doing their part. People also like to ‘one up’ one another, to be the first house on the street to use energy efficient technology and so on. This competitive behaviour is exactly what the energy saving industry needs to take over in neighbourhoods across the country.

How the smart meter can use human behaviour to an advantage

The smart meter provides data on consumer usage in the home. This data can be used to compare households with other households on the street, a program that Opower has adopted in the USA. The peer pressure involved in this type of scheme could drive people to change their habits purely based on a desire for social approval. A similar device available in the UK is the Compare my Energy tool that compares consumer usage with similar households in the country, not on the same road.

Individual Privacy

The manipulation of human behaviour as described above could arguably be an abusive use of the data provided by smart meters and potentially a reason why the meters won’t be effective. There are also concerns that hackers and immoral energy companies could abuse the data and cut off the supply of energy to homes. By being so exposed, the country makes itself susceptible to threat; for example, the entire nation’s grid could be hacked cutting the supply of energy off from homes all over the UK.

So are they the right choice? Many are hoping that the market will respond with a less imposing solution to this issue. Obviously promoting energy efficiency in the home is very important but with any scheme there is an element of trial and error before the final product is produced. The smart meter readings are the first in a long line (let’s hope) of energy efficient monitors that will help people to use less energy in their homes.

6 Comments to Is your smart meter really that smart?

  1. Sasa's Gravatar Sasa
    January 26, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Excellent and educational blog, thanks.

  2. February 10, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Do you think it’s time to look at fitting triple glazing? Although we are being told that the planet is heating up, it sure doesn’t feel like it. Really enjoyed the blog, informative and to the point.

  3. February 19, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Greta post guys- I’m with you in that I completely agree it is only human nature to want to and take great pride in making a positive impact on the environment- the only problem is as you touched on in your point, a lot of home owners with many other things to worry about are going to be tremendously reluctant to spend money on a device that may help them save money!

  4. April 13, 2015 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Some great advice here! In my experience as the owner of London Central Heating, I really don’t think enough people are aware of all the small things you can do around the house to help save energy and cut bills, for example, just turning down your room thermostat by one degree, if it’s too warm inside, can save you between £85 to £90 a year! It really is the small things that make a difference.

  5. Larawell's Gravatar Larawell
    July 31, 2017 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    A solar system is a more authentic way to save the electricity and money. In my experience, I used the solar system in last 2 years system produce a high potential voltage which running all equipment of electricity easily and no tension of electricity bills.

  6. Tony Barron's Gravatar Tony Barron
    September 24, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Traditional meters do not provide an “estimate” of consumption. By law they have to provide an accurate reading. The advantage of a smart meter is the ability to read it wirelessly, and then feed this signal into a dedicated device or a computer programme to obtain details of consumption. Much easier, though no more accurate, than the old way of sending a little boy into the cupboard under the stairs with a torch and fathers watch, to time the wheel going round. Why the energy companies want you to install them is that a) they will no longer require humans to read your meter, so reducing their wages bill, and b) they can switch off your supply without entering your house. While you can still talk to a human in their accounts departments, this may not be a problem; But accounts computers frequently mess up (certainly Npowers do) and once the computer can turn off your energy supply because you’re a day late paying won’t it be a wonderful world?
    Energy is saved by changing our behaviour, or using more efficient devices.

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