Tag: research

METER – insights into the timing and flexibility of electricity usage

METER is a national research project to understand what we use electricity for. And anyone can take part.

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This study asks thousands of UK households to submit a one day record of their activities. During this day their electricity use is also measured minute by minute.

The combination of activity and electricity data can gives valuable insights into the timing and flexibility of electricity. METER data is intended to help with the development of new approaches to reduce demand at critical times, while avoiding inconvenience for users. METER will test different forms of incentives and interventions to establish an evidence base for load shifting against a statistically robust baseline.

This becomes especially important when trying to make better use of variable renewable sources of electricity. By identifying a load shifting potential of only 1kW (half the power of a washing machine) in 1% of UK households, the national cost saving could easily exceed a quarter of a billion pounds.

The scale of the project is made possible by the innovative use of smart phones.

Here is an example of my (Peter Bates) household’s energy usage on 21/22 September 2016. (Note we do have Solar PV and did not use the washing machine that day). You can clearly see the peak usage during the cooking of the evening meal.

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More information on the METER Project and take part in the research.

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Get the latest METER Project newsletter Autumn 2016

Research finds that SuperHomes use 40% less energy

Detailed research into the energy use of SuperHomes reveals that, on average, they are using 40% less energy per square metre per year than the average UK home. SuperHomes are, therefore, much cheaper to run than their unrefurbished neighbours.

Chester SuperHome
Chester SuperHome. Whilst bills are similar to the owner’s previous home, that home was half the size!

The most energy efficient home in the study, whilst offering improved comfort, uses a staggering 86% less energy than the average home.

One of the participants in this research, Simon Brown, is no stranger to the benefits of retrofit. He says “After the first year, we were pleasantly surprised to find our total gas and electricity bill was slightly less than in our previous home, which was half the size.”

So, whilst low-carbon and low-energy don’t necessarily go hand in hand, this study confirms that SuperHomes excel in both respects.

The research report shows that an average SuperHome:

  • Is over 40% more energy-efficient than the average UK home in its energy use per square metre per year.
  • Consumes about 19% less total energy than the average UK home each year, despite having a larger than average floor area and a higher than average occupancy, and being older than an average house building.
  • Uses 104kWh of energy per square metre per year, compared with a national average of 177kWh/m2/yr.
  • Consumes a total of 14,722kWh of energy per annum, compared with an average household consumption of 18,100kWh.
  • Achieves an incredible average reduction of 72% in carbon emissions, based on comparisons between pre- and post-retrofit emissions

The most energy-efficient SuperHome in the survey (refurbished to the exacting Passivhaus standard) was found to use just 25kWh/m2/yr, an impressive 86% less than the national average.

Gabby Mallett, Director of SuperHomes and Households and Communities at the National Energy Foundation, commented:

“Many people assume that a low-carbon home is also a low-energy one. However, this is not necessarily the case … it’s fantastic to discover that many SuperHomes have not only gone much further than a 60% carbon reduction, but they’ve achieved great results on energy too.”

SuperHomes are older homes refurbished by their owners to deliver a carbon saving of at least 60%. The owners host free open days in September to share the benefits and the challenges of home refurbishment.

Researchers at the National Energy Foundation (NEF) calculated the energy and carbon figures for a representative sample of the existing 205 SuperHomes, by per person per year, and by per square metre of floor space per year. Using the 2012 National Energy Efficiency Data-Framework (NEED) sample, NEF was able to make comparisons between an average SuperHome and the average UK home with the same number of occupants or of the same size.

Read the Energy Efficiency Benchmarks for SuperHomes Report

Draughts in homes – a big hidden issue

Some interesting research has been done by Sustainable Homes on draughts in homes. It focuses on the effects that draughts have on the perception of wintertime comfort.

Cold draughts can have detrimental effects on health and can be fatal for elderly occupants. Building regulations require that new homes are built to demanding insulation requirements using the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP), and pressure-tested to demonstrate air-tightness – but even so, some new homes are still considered draughty by their occupants.

Full details

Solid Wall Insulation – Unlocking Demand and Driving Up Standards

In November 2015, the chief construction adviser to the government Peter Hansford published his recommendations aimed at restoring the credibility of solid wall insulation (SWI). The report “Solid Wall Insulation – Unlocking Demand and Driving Up Standards” provides a roadmap for the way the industry needs to go to improve standards and quality of work, embracing best practice and restoring consumer confidence that will stimulate the uptake of these measures leading to improving comfort, health and well-being as well as carbon reduction benefits.

SWI Report Nov 2015

The UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions from 1990 levels by a massive 80% by 2050. Accordingly, the Construction 2025 strategy has set the ambition of achieving a 50% reduction in emissions across the built environment by 2025.

Given that there are around 26 million existing homes in the United Kingdom and over eight million of these with solid walls, adopting solid wall insulation as a solution for much of  existing UK housing stock makes good business sense. The UK Green Construction Board commissioned Peter Hansford to carry out this review. Its purpose is to leverage the latent possibilities in the construction industry to unlock innovation and increase demand for solid wall insulation.

BISF type system-built home

Benefits derived from treating properties with SWI, in addition to the carbon reduction benefits, include -improving comfort, health and well-being; supporting fuel security by reducing overall energy demand; addressing fuel poverty;improving fabric and reducing maintenance costs; regenerating neighbourhoods; and contributing to GDP and tax revenues. The economic case for the energy efficiency of the UK housing stock is also strong.
However, current demand for SWI is depressed for a variety of policy and technical reasons. At the same time, SWI has developed somewhat of a poor reputation due to numerous examples of inadequate installation and poor workmanship. The report considers that if  SWI is to be promoted as an effective retrofit solution, these areas need to be addressed with urgency.Orlit type system-built home The Green Construction Board is therefore keen to see increased demand for SWI and better standards of design and installation, so as to significantly reduce carbon across the domestic sector of the built environment.

With so many property archetypes existing, there is no single solution that would apply to all properties. This adds to the confusion by householders of what is the correct solution for their individual properties.

To make matters worse, the building physics for some types of property is not widely nor perhaps fully understood. This has resulted in many instances of an incorrect solution having been applied, which in some cases has caused damp, mould or poor air quality. Little wonder then, the reluctance of homeowners to spend money retrofitting their properties if the outcome cannot be assured.
To overcome these problems, a higher level of expertise is needed in assessing the correct solution for a particular property and in ensuring that it is installed properly.
The top 12 domestic property archetypes in the UK account for approximately 15.5 million homes. They represent around 60% of the total UK housing stock and 57% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Of these 15.5 million homes, around 3.5 million (some 23%) are suitable for SWI. SWI therefore has the potential to benefit a significant number of homes and play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the UK domestic housing stock.
From this group of 3.5 million homes suitable for SWI, 75% are owner occupied (2.6 million); 10% are owned by Local Authorities or Housing Associations (340,000); and 15% are private rented (550,000). Nearly 1.2 million of these homes (34%) are categorised as containing ‘vulnerable households’.
The report offers recommendations to address the issues above, and proposes:

  • Taking a co-ordinated and holistic approach to insulating solid wall homes;
  • Policy measures which Government may wish to consider;
  • Focusing research on areas that are not fully understood;
  • Review and revision of standards and measures for statutory compliance;
  • More robust accreditation of assessors and qualified installers;
  • Development of guidance for assessors, designers, supervisors and customers, in language appropriate to themselves;
  • The role of a Retrofit Co-ordinator;
  • An awareness campaign with a simple message, so as to increase uptake;
  • The creation of a Retrofit Hub as a technical centre of excellence; and
  • Leadership arrangements for making these recommendations happen.

The report also contains a number of case studies of different property archetypes.

Get the full report

Additional article “Retrofit Coordinators to be mandatory for all SWI projects” – CoRE

British households could save 75 pounds a year ~ if they take control of their heating

According to Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of Energy Saving Trust, speaking during Big Energy Saving Week:

“Rightfully, millions of householders are confused by their heating controls because, let’s be honest, it is a bit of a minefield. There are plenty of myths out there and it’s no wonder people aren’t getting it right. We are urging customers to learn about the myths, check their tariff, switch suppliers and insulate their homes.”

heater-thermostat-415x260

The findings from an Ipsos MORI survey of over 2,000 UK respondents show that almost four fifths of people (78 per cent) claim to understand how to use their heating controls. However, many of these respondents turn out to be using their heating controls incorrectly. Of those who thought they understood how to operate their heating controls:

  • MYTH 1: Turn the heating up when it’s cold outside. Half (52 per cent) turn the thermostat up when it’s cold outside. A home shouldn’t need this as the thermostat is there to maintain the home temperature whatever the weather.
  • MYTH 2: Turn up the thermostat to heat the room quicker. Over a third (35 per cent) turn their room thermostat up when they want the room to heat up quicker. This does not help a room become warmer any quicker and only heats the home to a warmer temperature.
  • MYTH 3: Leave the heating on low constantly. Thirty-eight per cent think it is more energy efficient to leave the heating turned on at a low temperature constantly, rather than turn it on and off. This means these homes are heated when no-one is there to benefit and then the home is too cold when people are in the home.
  • MYTH 4: Hot water runs out if you stop feeding the tank. Nearly a third (31 per cent) leave their water heating on all the time to make sure they never run out, which could be costing far more on their energy bills than necessary.
  • MYTH 5: Keep electric storage heaters on all the time. Our research also found that few people with electric storage heaters fully understand how they work (only 38 per cent). This means that households with electric heating could be paying through the nose by not taking advantage of cheaper night rate electricity.

Source: Energy Saving Trust press release