Will smart meters really help homeowners save energy?

Smart meters being fitted in UK homes will make energy use more visible, but it is not clear if technology alone will be enough to reduce energy consumption. An Energy Saving Trust survey recently revealed that three quarters of the public support smart meters and the sharing of energy use data. The government hopes to offer the technology to every home and business by the end of the decade, with the roll-out kicking off in autumn 2015.

Smart meters are an important tool for helping people understand and quantify energy use. They differ from a traditional meter, by providing accurate energy use data in real-time. This can be shown on an in-home display and also read remotely by the energy supplier. Historical information on energy use and cost will allow consumers to compare current and past use.

Shahzeen Attari from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, explains that in reality people largely underestimate the energy consumption for certain devices and activities. “For example, if you were to ask someone how much energy a dishwashing machine would use in an hour, on average they would tend to underestimate it by factor of 800 times less than what it actually consumes,” she said.

Smart Meters

The aim is for smart meters to help make energy consumption more visible to us and help us understand how much we’re actually using. Attari is currently working on research to understand whether real-time feedback actually makes a difference, and whether the difference is sustained over a long period of time.

“Research has shown that people use less energy if they are more engaged with how much they are using and where and how it is being used,” said Steve Evans, owner of SE Electrical Services, local electrician based in Witney. “62% of people stated that an understanding of how much energy they were using in monetary terms on a daily basis would encourage them to be more energy efficient. We have seen an influx of people wanting smart energy meters.”

It’s also important to know how much information to present to people and how. The Energy Saving Trust explored the public’s preferences in how smart meter information is delivered to them – this will prove important for developers and energy companies.

An Energy Saving Trust survey recently revealed that three quarters of the public support smart meters and the sharing of energy use data. The government hopes to offer the technology to every home and business by the end of the decade, with the roll-out kicking off in autumn 2015.

Smart meters are an important tool for helping people understand and quantify energy use. They differ from a traditional meter, by providing accurate energy use data in real-time. This can be shown on an in-home display and also read remotely by the energy supplier. Historical information on energy use and cost will allow consumers to compare current and past use.

Shahzeen Attari from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, explains that in reality people largely underestimate the energy consumption for certain devices and activities.

“For example, if you were to ask someone how much energy a dishwashing machine would use in an hour, on average they would tend to underestimate it by factor of 800 times less than what it actually consumes,” she said.

The aim is for smart meters to help make energy consumption more visible to us and help us understand how much we’re actually using. Attari is currently working on research to understand whether real-time feedback actually makes a difference, and whether the difference is sustained over a long period of time.

“Research has shown that people use less energy if they are more engaged with how much they are using and where and how it is being used,” said Stephen Passmore, technical delivery manager at the Energy Saving Trust, in a statement. “This is supported by our survey, with 62% of people asked stating that an understanding of how much energy they were using in monetary terms on a daily basis would encourage them to be more energy efficient.”

It’s also important to know how much information to present to people and how. The Energy Saving Trust explored the public’s preferences in how smart meter information is delivered to them – this will prove important for developers and energy companies.

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