What your smart meter installer should be telling you

Our research shows the benefit of integrating energy efficiency advice into the nationwide rollout

30 March 2016

Householders with smart prepayment meters who are shown how to use the connected in-home displays (IHDs) for energy efficiency, will monitor their energy use, set daily targets and budget better – and  will reduce their energy consumption by doing these things. This is what we found after giving one-to-one advice to Utilita prepayment meter energy customers in the South West.

The research was funded by the Chesshire Lehmann Fund, and completed as part of the USmartConsumer project – an 8-country European collaboration to explore innovative smart meter services. Read the full report.

Smart meters will start popping up in homes as standard in Britain from later this year. Compared to the old-style meters, the new displays provide a wealth of information for consumers including real -time energy-use data, a history of past use and, for prepayment customers, their balance remaining on their account.

Karen Smith spoke with many of the participants in the study. “If householders engage with the data, they can assess and significantly reduce their energy consumption and fuel bills," she said. "So, we wanted to find out what support the early adopters of the technology need to get the most of their smart devices, and use this to shape installer practice during the forthcoming rollout.”

Done in theory, but not in practice
The government does recognise how useful smart meters could be if householders can be persuaded to engage with them. In fact, their own figures suggest a hefty £5.7bn of predicted savings in reduced energy consumption in the nation's homes if IHDs are used to their potential, and it is for this reason that suppliers are obliged to offer energy efficiency advice to householders at the same time that they're installing the smart meter in the home.

However, in practice this may not be happening. Of those householders we spoke to in the course of our work, while most had been shown by the installers the basics of using their new display, few had been told how to use it to reduce energy demand.

We visited 15 homes, giving practical demonstrations of how to use the IHD to manage fuel bills and reduce energy use. These included turning on and off different appliances anything from washing machines to cookers and fishtanks  to show the real-time changes in energy use and running cost on the display. We also showed how the display can be used to check historic fuel use and to set  daily targets to help with household budgeting.

"Our interviews revealed that the IHD attracts people to switch to smart metering, and that users respond positively to the screens – particularly to the mobile display that they can put somewhere convenient to keep an eye on their energy use," said Karent. "It’s important to harness this enthusiasm as the new technology is introduced, and we’re now working with Utilita to devise messages on use of the IHD and energy efficiency tips that customers will receive straight to their display."

The research report can be downloaded here.

This page on our advice site has more information on smart meters and IHDs and downloadable fact sheets.

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