- By Andy Stanford-Clark
- Last week you heard all about my personal mission to reduce the energy consumption in my “house that twitters” using home automation and energy monitoring technology.
Today, I’m going to talk about how we have taken the same technology applied in my home and used it to help change the lives of some residents of Chale – a small village on the south coast of the Isle of Wight.
In December 2009, Chale was selected as one of only ten communities in the UKto benefit from funding for a project to become a low-carbon community, and as a result The Chale Community Project was born. The project’s primary objective was to save energy and water in homes, resulting in reduced fuel costs. So how does the project work? Join me for a tour to find out.
The project started by installing energy-saving upgrades into 65 homes, such as loft insulation and double (and in some places triple) glazing. The houses, none of which have gas mains, were then equipped with air-source heat pumps (a heating system that uses heat from the outside air as its energy source) and solar photo-voltaic (PV) panels to provide free electricity generated from the sun.
My involvement with the project was to specify and develop a monitoring kit that could be easily installed into the homes. We provided residents in 40 homes with a monitoring system very similar to the one that I use in my home. This includes:
- Sensor and wireless transmitter to monitor how much electricity is being used across the whole house.
- Individual Appliance Monitors (IAMs) on 6 selected appliances, e.g. washing machine, tumble dryer, TV, heaters, etc.
- Sensor and wireless transmitter on the PV Export meter to measure the electricity being generated by the solar panels throughout the day.
- Energy monitor display to show residents how much electricity they’re using at any time.
- Internet Bridge which connects the energy monitor to the Internet over broadband, and sends the energy usage data, via IBM MQTT technology, to the secure cloud infrastructure where the Chale Project data is stored.
The data is presented to residents so they can take control of their home energy usage by logging in to a web portal to see energy graphs for their house and identifying where they might be able to make savings. Some members of the Chale community have been trained as Green Energy assessors and they help other residents make sense of their energy information and suggest ways to reduce their usage and save money.
The data (in anonymous form) also provides valuable insights to housing associations and academic research partners on how energy is being used by residents. This enables useful energy savings advice to be given that’s based on behavioural changes. Such advice could be geared toward savings or suggesting further energy-saving technology that could be installed.
The feedback so-far from residents participating in the Chale Project has been fantastic. Some residents have reported a dramatic reduction in their energy bills with savings of up to 50 percent. One resident reported that his winter electricity bill has gone from £50 (approx $80) per week down to £25 (approx $40). In today’s tough times with the price of energy relentlessly rising, this is a great result for the residents of Chale!
So how do we ensure that everyone on the island, and even other islands and regions, can make use of this energy-saving technology? Well that’s where the Ecoisland initiative comes in. Next week my video diary blog will reveal more about Ecoisland and the overall initiative to build a Smart Grid that will integrate the Isle of Wight’s future solar, tidal, geothermal, wind power and other carbon-reducing technologies.
I’m also hosting a People for a Smarter Planet Twitter chat on 31st October at 12:00PM ET. So join me to find out more about Ecoisland http://bit.ly/TEi8sy.