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Home energy management systems: the future or a passing fad?

Posted by Helena Ripley on 9 November 2015 at 10:45 am

With the rising cost of energy and the ever-increasing demand, both you and your house have to get smart to keep bills down. Home energy management systems (HEMS) are devices that monitor, analyse and control energy in your home. HEMS first hit the market back 2008 and are on the rise. In December 2009, the UK government promised that every home will be provided with a Smart Meter by 2020. Smart Meters allow for near real-time data analysis on how much energy you’re using and how much it is going to cost you. Advances in machine to machine communication between mobile phones, everyday home appliances and HEMS might be about to transform the way our homes work.

Imagine a future where you’re driving to work realising that you left a cake in the oven and it’s no problem, as a quick swipe on your mobile phone switches your cooker off. At least there’s no worry that you forgot to lock the door, your phone will have triggered the electronic locking mechanism as you walked down the drive. Your party tonight will be great as your house is kept cool through this heat-wave by the solar-powered air conditioning and the spare energy will prepare your hot tub. The fridge will order, prepare and serve a selection of your favourite snacks and beverages after you entered the party dates in your diary. The reactive heating and lighting systems will maintain a steady temperature and ambience as guests move from room to room.

This future seems only a stone’s throw away with HEMS today already being able to monitor your energy usage and advise you on how to reduce your energy bills. HEMS can also take into account thermal features of your home, the weather outside, and even your schedule to maximise the efficiency of your heating and hot-water systems. These HEMS can also manage your home while you are away, preventing your pipes from freezing in winter and warming the house ready for your return.

Advantages of HEMS include:

  • Detailed feedback on your energy use and cost, allowing you to identify ways to save as much as 20% on energy bills
  • Low maintenance
  • Eliminates manual meter readings, reducing hassle
  • Allows for real-time load management by supplier reducing blackouts
  • Allows for dynamic pricing, charging you less when demand is low

Disadvantages of HEMS include:

  • Takes time to get used to new technology and processes
  • They require an initial investment
  • Increased reliance on technology
  • Some HEMS have subscription fees
  • Sharing more of your personal data

Installation of your HEMS should be carried out by a specialist trained fitter. The cost and time taken to complete your installation will vary depending on the size of your home, the number of appliances to link into the HEMS, and the complexity of the HEMS. Professionally installed services such as PassivSystems’ PassivLiving HEAT or the E.ON’s Thinking Energy Project cost some two or three hundred pounds. However, some simple HEMS such as the efergy ecotouch have a starter pack online priced from around £60. You may decide to combine the installation of your HEMS with the installation of solar panels which can reduce costs, provide a clean, sustainable source of energy, and potentially make you a profit in the long-term by selling your spare energy back to the grid.

With both the UK government and utility providers adopting HEMS, plus the related ‘Internet of things’ exciting investors, it seems that HEMS are here to stay. Achieving the right balance between cost, energy reduction and customer satisfaction will be the key to success of HEMS and their providers in the coming decade.

 

With thanks to Jason Ramsdale for writing and supplying the content of this blog.

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Comments

1 comments - read them below or add one

Malcolm M

Malcolm MComment left on: 1 December 2015 at 10:53 pm

I have read recent blogs regarding the benefits of smart meters and Home Energy Management Systems. Both have talked about benefits such as lower energy costs at low-demand periods.

None have discussed the converse ot the above i.e. when demand for energy is high (domestic) consumers (with smart meters etc installed) will be charged higher prices by the District Network Operator to reflect the prices they are charged by the centralised power generators (power stations).

A local small commercial building near me is charged three times the rate for electricity used during the peak evening period 1630 to 1900 hrs M-F than they are charged for a kwh during mid-morning.

This same demand-led charging will be coming to the domestic consumer in the not too distant future.

For those domestic solar PV householders I fully expect that middle-of-the-day-in-summer export tariffs will plummet (to circa 1p/kwh?) in line with "over-capacity" in the distribution system.

Just look to Germany to see the effects on the prices of electricity in summer

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