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 energy efficient home 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 solar panels, 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 fuel costs because they are too complicated to set correctly. But by designing an intelligent, automated system that takes the complexity out of the controls, the team found that energy use 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 electrical appliances. 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.
|Contact: EPSRC Press Office|
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council