Smart Living: How Home Energy Management Systems can save you money and save the planet
Empty offices, closed restaurants and shut down factories - the world outside our homes came to a halt during lockdown. While this led to a significant fall in the country’s overall energy consumption, the opposite is true for domestic energy use. Working and socialising from home, UK households saw a steep rise in energy consumption during lockdown, using 20% more electricity than usual.
While the circumstances were undoubtedly unique, the events nevertheless offered us a glimpse into the future of energy; a future in which residential housing will eventually become the biggest consumer of electricity. With electric cars and electric heating on the rise and more and more people working from home, consumers’ electricity consumption will dramatically increase over the next ten years.
So how can we ensure that this trend doesn’t result in more carbon emissions or higher energy bills but instead helps us to fast-track to a net-zero world?
Off-peak energy saves you money and CO2
To fight climate change we have to move away from dirty fossil fuels to a sustainable energy system that relies on renewables such as wind, solar or hydro. One way to reduce the share of coal and gas-fired power is to shift our electricity consumption from peak demand periods, when wholesale prices are high, to off-peak times, when electricity is cheapest. Energy used at off-peak times is not only more affordable, it’s also ‘greener’ as that’s when more renewable energy is in the grid, making the power coming down the wires less carbon-intensive.
Customers on fixed, flat rate tariffs who want to shift their energy use to ‘greener’ time periods can use carbon tracker apps like the one from National Grid ESO to find out when electricity is cleanest. Although this won’t help to lower monthly electricity bills, at least it will help to balance the power grid and contribute to saving the planet.
But households can also personally benefit from shifting their energy use to times when the grid is under less strain, saving them hundreds of pounds each year. Octopus Energy’s smart meter-enabled energy tariff Agile Octopus gives customers access to half-hourly electricity prices based on the day-ahead wholesale market, allowing them to instantly benefit when wholesale prices fall (and sometimes even get paid to take excess energy off the grid). Yes, Agile customers can get paid to use energy.
Can you automate it? - Yes, you can!
So the benefits of shifting energy consumption out of peak times are substantial. But this still requires customers to actively manage their usage, checking carbon-intensity and energy rates, which innovators have helped with, and switching appliances on when energy is cleaner. But what if that wasn’t necessary? What if the house took care of all of this work for us - only better, saving users valuable time and even more money?
To truly unlock the potential of smart tariffs like Agile Octopus, they have to be combined with other smart home products and app integrations. By connecting smart products to a Home Energy Management System (HEMS), we don’t even have to think about shifting our energy consumption anymore, the appliances run automatically during the cheapest and greenest times; when we’re sleeping, or out and about.
Want your electric car to be fully charged at 8 o’clock in the morning but pay as little as possible for it? No problem. If the EV is connected to a smart charger such as the Ohme charging cable, the home energy management system will find the best time for charging based on the smart tariff’s energy rates during that night. And HEMS can do much more than that. From smart plugs to smart thermostats and electric heating - as long as it can be instructed to use energy automatically at times of the day, any smart product can be connected to the home energy management system.
Even smart home helpers like Google Home can be integrated to HEMS to help households get the most out of their smart energy tariff. One such example is Amazon’s Alexa. Octopus Energy partnered with Amazon to create a ‘skill’ for the digital assistant. Now, Octopus’ customers can ask Alexa how much energy they’ve used or what time energy is cheapest or cleanest, making it even more easy to know when to run the dishwasher or heat up the water tank.
Living the Future of Energy, today
Lockdown opened up a window into the future, allowing us to see how domestic energy consumption will change over time. The good news is, thanks to clever energy management technology and smart home devices this transition won’t cost us neither the earth nor our savings.
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