High-tech sensors and web apps for more engaging energy advice

Sharing the innovative ’Chariot’ kit ...

Project duration: March 2014 to May 2017

Chariot is a web-based service for collecting, interpreting and displaying information about a home’s temperature, humidity levels and energy consumption.

Chariot's purpose is to allow energy advisors to see whether a home is providing a comfortable and healthy environment for the people who live in it. This page is about the kit we use; you can read the full project profile here.

At the heart of the project is some high-tech kit, developed by researchers from the universities of Southampton and Nottingham.

The Chariot package includes:

  1. A number of small wireless sensors (e.g. 2-5, depending on the size of the house or the number of rooms that have specific temperature or humidity issues) that are placed in key areas of the home and outside, and measure temperature and humidity. The four items at the back of the photo above are examples of the sensors we use.
  2. A wireless consumption-monitoring device (not shown in photo) that is attached to the home's electricity meter (and, in due course to the gas meter as well).
  3. data collection hub receives data from the sensors and monitoring devices and in turn sends this to a cloud-based hosting service where it is stored anonymously and securely. The hub is the black box with the thick aerial at the front of the photo. 
  4. A web application to analyse, interpret and visualise the data.

It's the last of these - the interpretation software - that makes Chariot special. Anyone can collect data, but what Chariot can do is present this to the householder using interactive graphs and visualisations that, when used in conjunction with a home visit, makes the advice more meaningful and more likely to be acted on.

The Chariot interface is web-based and viewable on tablet or computer screen. It shows temperature and humidity levels in real-time plotted along a horizontal axis (see below). In this example, data from sensors in the living room is being shown: the green line is CO2 (scale in parts per million on the right), the purple line is temperature and the brown one humidity. The blue line is gas use.

The data from each sensor in the home can be looked at in isolation or in combination with others, and there are range of functions and presentation options with which to visualise and analyse it.

Nick Banks explains why Chariot can help with the provision of effective energy advice. "By analysing the data, Chariot can help an advisor explore the relationships between the household’s energy consumption and heating patterns, and understand the impact this has on the warmth and humidity levels of the home.

"This makes it a potent tool in the delivery of energy advice, allowing diagnostics of the home’s energy performance, identification of anomalies and opportunities for wiser energy use."

The Chariot kit makes the giving of energy advice more relevant and engaging. In the image above, CSE energy advisor Karen Smith and householder look at the home's energy data on a tablet.

You can download a detailed Chariot User Guide here and a short promotional leaflet hereOr see Nick Banks and Karen Smith explain how Chariot works on the video ...

[If you like the film, please consider subscribing to our YouTube channel.]

The October issue of 'Energy World', the magazine of the Energy Institute, carried an article on Chariot. It's online here, but only available to EI members.

To find out more about Chariot, contact nick.banks@cse.org.uk.

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