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Getting the habit smart device cuts home energy bills Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. I Case study 37

Pioneering engineers at De Montfort University have created an intelligent heating device that learns householders’ energy habits and could lead to home energy savings of up to 20 per cent – without compromising comfort.

25%.

the amount of UK emissions directly resulting from domestic heating and hot water use.

20%.

the amount of energy householders could save using Wattbox without compromising comfort.

The energy-saving ‘Wattbox’ is part of an innovative approach to energy-efficient home improvements supported through the EPSRC and E.ON Strategic Partnership. The funding also forms part of the Research Councils UK Energy Programme, and has led to the formation of a company, www.wattbox.com, to commercialise the research. Peter Boait, Wattbox director and senior research fellow at De Montfort University, which is coordinating the multidisciplinary research, says: “We all know we can save money by switching off lights and turning the central heating down a notch, but research has shown that householders often struggle with their home heating controls, such as timers and thermostats, because they are too complicated to set correctly. Smart energy “When we started the Wattbox project we had two main aims: to design an intelligent automated energy management system and to make it very easy to use and understand. By taking the complexity out of the controls, we estimate energy use on heating and hot water alone could be reduced by up to 14 per cent.” During the research, a working prototype of the Wattbox was fitted to a UK home and provided overall energy savings of 15.7 per cent during the winter time and 34 per cent during summer months. The Wattbox monitors householders’ use of hot water and electrical equipment and ‘learns’ their habits. It then uses the information to create a thermostat schedule which responds to outdoor heat.

The Wattbox heats water just before it is usually needed, preventing energy waste and displaying a red light to tell householders when hot water is available. If the automatic system does not satisfy, users can see how much more or less energy they use by pushing a button for ‘more heat’ or ‘less heat’. Simple installation Installation is simple too, the Wattbox simply replaces the boiler’s timeclock and thermostat and is connected using existing wiring schemes. In addition to a smart meter display, which registers data such as electricity and gas consumption; the company provides an optional user display for home computers and mobile phones. Patented research “The device works because we put people at the centre of our research,” says Peter, who has been granted five patents in the areas of intelligent heating control and energy management in the past three years. The company has also been granted a much sought-after patent for the product in the United States. “Wattbox helps people get the most out of green investments they make in their homes too, such as solar panels, and helps them capitalise on the recentlyannounced feed-in tariffs for small-scale renewable schemes. It’s also possible to retrofit the Wattbox, making it suitable for all houses, not just new ones.” Image courtesy of De Montfort University.

For more information about EPSRC and the impact it is making visit www.epsrc.ac.uk


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

20%

POTENTIAL SAVING IN HOUSEHOLD ENERGY CONSUMPTION

www.epsrc.ac.uk


Getting the habit smart device cuts home energy bills