How smart technology can help people save energy this winter

by | Nov 4, 2023

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Winter is coming…along with higher fuel bills. Over the past five years, the cost of energy has risen significantly in the UK – last year typical household energy bills increased by 54% and they remain well above their pre-2022 levels​.

The continuing war in Ukraine and a new one opening up in the Middle East means prices are expected to continue their upward trajectory, especially as winter approaches and demand for energy surges​1​.

There is a lot in our world we cannot control but how we heat our homes is one of them – thanks to the latest technology enhancing energy efficiency, says smart tech expert Robert Taussig.

 
 

‘Smart tech like energy monitoring systems can provide real-time feedback on energy consumption,’ he says. ‘By understanding their energy usage patterns, homeowners and businesses can make informed decisions to reduce consumption, thereby lowering their energy bills.’

Taussig lists six different forms of smart tech which homeowners can use to keep costs down

  1. Smart Thermostats: These devices can optimise heating and cooling systems to operate more efficiently (more information about the rival brands below).
  2. Smart Lighting: By using smart lighting systems that adjust brightness based on natural light availability or occupancy, energy consumption can be reduced significantly. Robert recommends the Philips Hue bulb which, when used at full light output, saves up to 80 per cent of energy compared to incandescent lighting​.
  3. Appliance Efficiency: Smart plugs and outlets can monitor the energy usage of individual appliances and even turn off devices that are not in use, preventing “phantom” energy loss.
  4. Demand Response Programs: Smart tech can also enable participation in demand response programs where consumers can reduce or shift their electricity usage during peak periods in response to time-based rates or other forms of financial incentives.
  5. Renewable Energy Integration: Smart technology can also facilitate the integration and efficient utilisation of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which can reduce reliance on more expensive, non-renewable sources of energy.
  6. Predictive Maintenance: Through predictive analytics, smart tech can predict when energy systems or appliances may fail or require maintenance, ensuring they operate efficiently and prevent costly repairs or energy wastage.

Assessing the competition in smart thermostat systems 

 
 

Robert Taussig, who has helped royals and celebrities with all their home tech needs, takes us through some of the main brands helping people keep down their energy usage. 

Smart Heating/Energy Systems:

Hive’s Thermostat Mini: Priced at £119, this thermostat comes with a hub that connects to your router to provide smart heating control​.

 
 
  1. Annual Savings:
    • The Hive Thermostat Mini can save users up to £311 per year through features like instant alerts, frost protection, geolocation, and holiday mode, which contribute to more efficient heating management​​. Esentially, it would take just over 4.5 months for the Hive Thermostat Mini to pay for itself through the energy savings it provides.
  2. Additional Monthly Savings:
    • By combining the Hive Thermostat Mini with Hive Heating Plus, users could potentially save an extra £26 a month during colder months, increasing the overall savings​.
  3. Fuel Bill Reduction:
    • Utilising the Hive app to control the heating system efficiently is recommended as a crucial step towards reducing fuel bills and lowering carbon emissions​.
  4. Remote Control:
    • Full control via the Hive app allows users to manage their home’s heating remotely, which not only enhances convenience but also contributes to energy savings by ensuring the heating is only on when needed​.
  5. Enhanced Heating Efficiency:
    • Smart heating control through the Hive Thermostat Mini enables users to maintain a comfortable home temperature while minimising energy wastage, thus reflecting on reduced heating costs.

Google Nest Thermostat E: A slightly pricier option at around £200, offering smart thermostat functionalities​4​.

  1. Energy Savings:
    • Nest claims that users can save between 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling with their thermostats, which aligns with the Energy Star certification that estimates an average of 8% savings on heating or cooling, translating to about £37/year on energy bills (based on the original estimate of $50/year)​.
  2. Energy-Efficient Scheduling:
    • The Nest Thermostat E facilitates the creation of energy-efficient schedules. The Auto-Schedule feature on the Nest Learning Thermostat, for instance, automatically crafts a schedule based on user preferences. On the other hand, the Quick Schedule feature on the Nest Thermostat offers smart prompts to help users easily build a schedule that suits them. Additionally, the Eco Temperatures feature on any Nest thermostat automatically switches to energy-saving temperatures once it senses that nobody is at home​.
  3. Utilising Cleaner or Cheaper Energy:
    • The Energy Shift feature, available to Nest Renew members, works with compatible Nest thermostats to make small, subtle temperature adjustments, helping shift energy use to cleaner or cheaper times​​.
  4. Seasonal Adjustments:
    • The Seasonal Savings feature on Nest thermostats makes minor adjustments to your schedule over a few weeks to enhance efficiency, like slightly lowering the nighttime temperature to save energy​.
  5. Avoiding Energy Rush Hours:
    • Enrolling in the Rush Hour Rewards program allows the Nest thermostat to automatically adjust temperatures before and during peak demand surges, known as energy “rush hours,” to lower energy use and grid costs while still maintaining a comfortable temperature. Some local energy companies even offer incentives like credits on electricity bills or discounts on a Nest thermostat when signing up for Rush Hour Rewards​​.
  6. Remote Control and Suggestions:
    • The Google Nest Thermostat E ensures that users are not heating or cooling an empty home by providing control via home Wi-Fi and suggesting changes to the schedule, further contributing to reduced energy bills​.
  7. Cost Effectiveness:
    • Priced around £199 at various outlets​, with a slightly lower price of £180.00 (or £150.00 ex. VAT) at Travis Perkins​. the Google Nest Thermostat E presents an affordable solution for individuals aiming to reduce heating and cooling bills through smart features like remote control and energy-efficient scheduling.

Tado Starter Kit: Another smart thermostat option, priced around £199.99 on Tado’s official shop, though it’s on sale for £159.99​

  1. Energy Savings:
    • The Tado Starter Kit has been found to save an average of 22% on heating costs according to Tado’s official data based on 400,000 users from 2013 – 2022​​.
    • Another claim by Tado states that users can reduce their energy consumption by up to 28%, a figure confirmed by the Fraunhofer IBP in 2022​​.
    • The Energy Saving Trust has approved the Tado Starter Kit, indicating its efficiency in energy savings​​.
  2. Cost Savings:
    • The average saving per year for homes in the UK fitted with Tado is estimated to be £294, particularly beneficial during the anticipated expensive winter heating season in 2022​4​.
  3. Payback Period:
    • The Tado smart thermostats, part of the Starter Kit, start at £99.99 and are claimed to pay for themselves within 4 months thanks to the energy savings they provide​4​.
  4. Smart Features for Additional Savings:
    • Tado smart thermostats come with features like geofencing, which automatically turns off the heating when nobody is home, Open Window Detection, Weather Adaptation, and Smart Schedules, all contributing to reducing energy wastage and further saving costs​4​.
  5. Ease of Installation:
    • The Tado Starter Kit is designed for easy installation by homeowners, with a step-by-step online manual provided, making it a convenient choice for those looking to start saving on energy without the need for professional installation​​.
  6. Control and Monitoring:
    • The Tado Starter Kit allows homeowners to better control and monitor their heating systems, aiding in proactive energy management. The Tado app also enables homeowners to input their metre readings and understand their energy consumption patterns, further aiding in managing energy costs​.
  7. General Affordability:
    • The Tado Starter Kit is marketed as an affordable solution to high energy prices, offering a significant return on investment through energy savings over time​​.

Sinope TH1123WF Smart Thermostat: Specifically designed for line-voltage electric heating systems, this smart thermostat offers Wi-Fi connectivity and compatibility with various smart home devices and services​​.

 
 
  1. Energy Savings Features:
    • The Sinope TH1123WF Smart Thermostat is designed specifically for line-voltage electric heating systems, allowing users to control their home heating via phone or voice commands through Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri​​.
    • It provides real-time monitoring of energy consumption and savings, thus aiding in efficient energy management​.
  2. Energy Reports:
    • The thermostat generates power usage and cost-per-kWh reports, which could be instrumental in understanding and managing energy consumption better​.
  3. Smart Features for Additional Savings:
    • Features like geofencing trigger actions based on your presence, potentially saving energy when you are not home​.
    • It offers personalised ambience settings based on the time of day, events, or activity, which can be programmed for different schedules each day of the week, with up to eight periods per day, contributing to efficient energy usage​​.
  4. Ease of Installation and Compatibility:
    • The thermostat is relatively easy to install, although it requires some wiring work. It integrates seamlessly with Apple HomeKit and SmartThings home automation ecosystems, ensuring a broader smart home integration which could lead to further energy savings through coordinated smart home actions​​.
  5. Affordability:
    • The Sinope TH1123WF is considered an inexpensive smart thermostat option for electric heating systems, which might make it an affordable choice for those looking to save on energy costs​​.

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