Stunning results from energy savings project

By on 26/01/2011 in News

Some homes see 60 per cent saving in electricity bills after digital smart meter fitted, a trial in Birmingham has revealed.

A European project designed to monitor and change the behaviour of households with regard to their energy usage has clocked up some remarkable results in Birmingham.

Over a twelve week period, the homes taking part in the trial, run by Digital Birmingham and Family Housing Association, saved over 10 tonnes of CO2, with some households saving around £35 per month in electricity costs.

DEHEMS smart meters – standing for Digital Environment Home Energy Management System – were installed in 49 homes in the city.

The meters are linked to the mains electricity board to monitor usage overall, with some homes having socket monitors which can measure the usage of individual appliances.

Electricity usage can be monitored via an ‘online dashboard’ on a PC, showing householders how much electricity they use and when they use it – and thus how they can adjust their behaviour and habits to save energy.

The Birmingham project, which covers homes in Lozells, Handsworth, and Edgbaston is part of a wider European DEHEMS initiative which is working with homes in Manchester and Bristol as well as in Bulgaria.

As well as the DEHEMS meter, residents taking part in the trial benefited from ‘Green Doctor’ training designed to change their behaviour and encourage efficient energy usage.

After monitoring their results for just one week, the average household in the Birmingham trial cut their energy usage by eight per cent.

Research at the end of the 12 week trial showed that the number of people always turning off their lights when they leave a room, unplugging chargers from the mains, never leaving appliances on standby and boiling just enough water for one person when they use a kettle had, on average, doubled over the period.

Jean Allison from Handsworth is one person who believes that taking part in the trial has changed her behaviour for good.

“Before the project, it didn’t matter if the kettle was filed that little bit more,” she said.

“The information I now have thanks to the project has changed my behaviour – particularly with my wash cycle. We don’t leave equipment plugged in all the time now; the computer is only one when it need to be used – and I know when my partner’s sound system is on because I can see the electricity peak on the screen.

“It’s had a great impact  on my bills – my direct debit has gone down from £90 to £55 per month.”

Research following the project revealed that two thirds of the participants believed environmental concerns were now as important to them as cost when making energy decisions.  Over 80 per cent said that having the meter installed helped them understand their energy use more.

Digital Birmingham says that the DEHEMS project shows how easy it is for individuals to make a difference.

“The interesting thing is people’s understanding that being greener and more environmentally responsible doesn’t just help save the planet, it can save money for the individual as well,” said Heike Schuster-James, Digital Birmingham’s  programme and business manager.

“The average household saved over 46kwh of electricity over the 12 week trial – which equates to 229kg of CO2 – with very little change in lifestyle.

“It goes to prove that the individual can make a difference that matters to them – and collectively, to the community and the wider world.”

Claire Hardwick, head of community investment at Family Housing Association, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer residents the chance to take part in this valuable project.

“Through learning more about how their home uses energy, householders are reducing their energy consumption; cutting the cost of their fuel bills as well as reducing their carbon emissions as a result.

“By understanding whether knowledge of energy consumption results in behavioural change, we can also establish the viability of introducing such a system across our stock and the potential impact on our financial inclusion work.”

The DEHEMS project now enters stage three which includes the installation of a gas meter to enable residents to monitor their gas consumption for the first time and get a more rounded picture of their total household energy usage.

ENDS

***Pictures are available upon request***

For press enquiries, please contact: Mary Whitehouse, betterpr, tel: 01527 881965, fax: 01527 881985, email: mary@betterpr.co.uk

Note to editors

Digital Birmingham is a Birmingham City Council initiative and a strategic partnership of private, voluntary and public organisations throughout the city. It aims to ensure Birmingham is widely recognised as a leading European digital city and ensure that the benefits of digital technologies are available to all in the city. For more information visit www.digitalbirmingham.co.uk.

A video report on the DEHEMS project in Birmingham, including interviews with residents, can be seen on Digital Birmingham’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w5e8JnGhPk

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