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Don’t rely on ‘smart tech’ to save energy at home

Changing habits at home can help energy efficiency

Hand with ball of energy

A report on energy efficiency warns that we are focusing too much on technological solutions to climate change, and ignoring ‘people power’.

A paper released by the UK Energy Research Centre argues that we should spend more time educating people on energy use rather than relying on ‘smart’ technologies like smart meters to help consumers lower energy consumption.

According to Dr Kathryn Janda, who authored the study, around half our energy consumption is down to individuals’ personal choices – so educating people about energy efficiency is just as valuable as ‘low carbon’ buildings or the roll out of smart meters throughout the UK.

Energy efficiency at home

Dr Janda said: ‘Often, buildings don’t perform as expected, partially because occupants behave in more complex ways than designers account for; they open windows, leave doors open, generate body heat, keep tropical fish tanks and install plasma TV screens.’ 

In the US, over the last 40 years, the benefits gained through energy and resource efficiency have been surpassed by the increase ‘in the size, number, features and use of energy-consuming equipment’.

For example, more and more appliances, electronic equipment, computers and gadgets have appeared in people’s homes and these use energy and resources. You can reduce the energy you use by making sure you choose energy-efficient appliances.

Smart energy technology

The study highlights some problems with the – which has been touted as one technological solution to helping people reduce how much energy they use. It’s an issue Which? has been campaigning on for the last year. 

Which? senior energy advocate Erica Jobson said: ‘This is a valuable report, and Which? feels that smart meters in particular present a real opportunity for consumers to better understand and therefore reduce their energy usage, as well as cutting their household heating costs. 

‘Plans to roll out smart meters are still at development stage, and Which? is working hard to ensure consumers get the best deal they can from smart meters and the energy companies’.

Smart meters and energy monitors

Smart meters provide energy companies with an accurate meter reading – however, at their simplest level they do not provide any information to the consumer about energy use, cost, or how to reduce energy consumption. For that you need a corresponding energy monitor, which let you track how much energy you’re using in real-time. 

Our energy monitor review reveals four Best Buy models, and has tips on how to get the most from your energy monitor.

20 energy saving tips

Which? energy expert Sylvia Baron says: ‘Whilst it is important and cost-effective to insulate your home, there are also simple things you can do for free in your home that will save you energy and money.’

For example, turning the thermostat down by just one degree could help cut your heating bills by up to 10%. What’s more, around 8% of total UK TV energy consumption is said to come from products left on standby – so switching off the power when you’ve finished watching saves energy and money.’

Lower your gas and electricity bills

You can compare energy prices and switch to a new gas and electricity supplier on Which? Switch. People who switched with us between 1 October and 31 December 2013 are predicted to save an average of £234 a year on their bills.

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