The simple but smart switch which could help transform your home
A smart meter can help you take control of your energy today, but in the future it could do even more...
We’re spending much more time in our homes than usual this year, so any changes we make will feel much more significant. Take that wall hanging you’ve just put up or that new footstool – they’ve made your home feel so much more cosy, haven’t they? Of course, more time spent at home also means we’re using more energy, but one small change you could make to help you save money on your energy bills, reduce your carbon footprint and help make the UK’s energy grid cleaner and more efficient is having a smart meter installed.
As a piece of technology, it couldn’t be simpler. It doesn’t listen to you, it doesn’t talk to you and it doesn’t watch you. It simply measures the amount of energy you use around the house. That information is then sent to your energy supplier, meaning you only pay for what you use. And, if you opt for the in-home display, it will tell you how much energy you’re using around the house in near-real time. This can be kept anywhere you want in your home, so no more crawling into cupboards trying to get a meter reading.
Small change, big benefits
Just think of the changes we’ve made around the home in the past that have become second nature to us. Consider the heavy, wheezing vacuum cleaners we used to lug around our carpets, tripping over the cable as we went. Next came bagless, which allowed us to keep the thing going without getting a mouthful of dust every time it needed replacing. Now, many of us enjoy cordless vacuums, which can recharge ready for us to use whenever we want.
‘Our homes will power themselves’
– BBC Science Focus contributor and tech journalist Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
These technological advances are so routine that we’ve become used to them, and it’s much the same with a smart meter. It’s a pretty simple bit of kit, but it could have huge implications for the way we use energy in the future, and significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Once you have the information at your fingertips, you can start making small changes like using energy-saving lightbulbs, and not leaving your devices on standby,
And it’s not just your energy personal consumption – smart meters are a vital cog in the creation of a smart energy system. A system that will help us better integrate renewable energy, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Charging your electric car overnight could become much smarter with a smart meter, which may be able to use off-peak tariffs to work out when energy is cheapest for charging, meaning you pay as little as possible. Ultimately, there are so many ways the smart meter can make both your home and Britain’s energy system more efficient in the future. For such a small switch, it could be one of the smartest you ever make, so what are you waiting for?
What the future holds
BBC Science Focus contributor and tech journalist Jennifer Pattison Tuohy explains how solar-plus-storage solutions will usher in the next energy revolution, and how touch technology will become part of the fabric of our homes.
‘As renewable energies move mainstream, our homes will become power sources, capable of running our appliances and keeping the heat on even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. We’ll store energy generated from solar panels on our roofs and wind turbines in our gardens in lithium-ion batteries in our basements, built into our electric cars and bicycles, and even in our kettles. We’ll tap into them when energy prices are high to save money – or sell it back to the energy companies and have them pay us. Now that’s a smart home.
‘Today’s technology is intrusive, a new bright, blinking gadget you have to put on your mantlepiece, bedside table, or kitchen counter. But these are simply bridging devices, soon their smart capabilities will be embedded into our furniture, our countertops, and even our mirrors, and smart meters will be at the centre of it. A tap on a porcelain countertop will reveal an induction cooking surface, a fabric covered armchair becomes a wireless charging pad, a decorative LED light panel is a switch for your smart home, a mirror transforms into a touch screen with a swipe. Beyond that, augmented reality will beam touch controls into our peripheral visions and hand gestures will be the way we interact with our home (as well as each other).’
Join the quiet revolution
It’s such a simple change to make, but a smart meter really can make a difference. Need convincing?
If every UK household took action on energy efficiency now, we could save up to 54 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
We could achieve 11% of the UK’s 2050 carbon emissions target by taking household energy efficiency measures.
64% of people with smart meters feel more in control of the energy they use at home.
Britain could save a total of £5.6bn on energy bills in the next 20 years.