Smart meters lead to smart behaviors

Since the writing of my Master’s Degree thesis I am fully aware of how insulating housing is a vital part of solving both climate change and energy scarcity crises.

By reading a New York Times’ article I learned that halving houses’ carbon footprint in only five years is feasible. This is the result of an experiment carried out in Hove, United Kingdom.

Insulating buildings and using smart meters allow such drastic reductions and show that mitigating global warming and saving money can be done.

As the New York Times notes :

HOVE, England — When Jeffrey Marchant and his wife, Brenda, power up their computer, turn on a light or put the kettle on to boil, they can just about watch their electric bill rise.

A small box hanging on the wall across from the vase of flowers in the front hall of their tidy Victorian home displays a continuous digital readout of their electricity use and tells them immediately how much it will cost, helping them save energy.

Turn on a computer and the device — a type of so-called smart meter — goes from 300 watts to 400 watts. Turn off a light and it goes from 299 to 215. At 500, the meter is set to sound an alarm.

“I’ve become like one of Pavlov’s dogs,” Mrs. Marchant said. “Every time it bleeps I think I’m going to take one of those pans off the stove. I’d do anything to make it stop. It helps you change your habits.”

Through a host of small efforts like this, people like the Marchants have reduced their carbon footprint by half in the last five years and turned Hove — along with neighboring Brighton, with which it shares a local government — from the archetype of a traditional British seaside town into the prototype of a green village. Their efforts are gaining traction here, and recognition around Britain, as a model of easily replicated ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The British government is debating a plan to put some version of smart metering on all 46 million gas and electricity meters in the country’s homes.

In an era when movie stars build $5 million eco-mansions, families here have made their old Victorian houses eco-friendly, too. But they have done it through inexpensive and nearly invisible interventions, like under-roof insulation, solar water heaters and hallway meters, that leave their homes still looking like old Victorian houses.

“When people talk about an eco-house they picture a sleek house in the countryside with solar panels and wind turbines. Well, good for them. But that’s not how the average person lives,” said Mischa Hewitt, of Britain’s Low Carbon Trust, a nonprofit group.

The trust helped organize a series of open houses on weekends to let residents of neighboring Brighton show what they had done.

“What’s more important, what we’re encouraging, is to take old properties that were not built for energy efficiency and turn them around to save carbon, save energy and save money,” Ms. Hewitt said.

(…) In addition to adding a smart meter, the Marchants made two structural modifications to their home of 20 years, installing a solar water heating panel on a back roof ($6,400, after a local grant) and placing 12 inches of insulation under the roof, which Mrs. Marchant rolled out in the eaves herself (cost: $600).

But they have made dozens of behavioral changes as well.

(…) “We didn’t start out to reduce our carbon footprint — we’ve staggered from one awareness to another,” Mr. Marchant said. “We’re not talking rocket science. We’re talking simple things.”

(…) A small number of countries, like Sweden; states, like California; and companies have also been experimenting with smart meters in homes in the past few years, generally with success.

“Smart meters have the power to revolutionize people’s relationship with the energy they use,” the Conservative Party’s leader, David Cameron, said in a speech supporting the plan before Parliament in June, reflecting a government that had become ever more conscious of energy and the environment as well.

I would like to infer this article by stating that when considering insulating your place, think about this data : In France, heat losses in an old house occur likewise :

  • 30 percent through the roof and ceiling ; 25 percent through the walls ;
  • 20 percent when opening the windows to change the air ; 13 percent through the windows ;
  • 7 percent through the ground ; 5 percent through thermal bridges.

2 thoughts on “Smart meters lead to smart behaviors”

  1. Isn’t amazing what kind of opportunities are up for grabs?
    This is all because we’ve been distracted. Driven by advertising and social pressure, we’ve only be looking for more, more, more, without looking at how we were doing the basics.

  2. The famous smart meter that everyone is now talking about. How exciting it will be when every house would have one of these mentioned above. However I ask myself a question that how big of a difference will it make? I think people first will need to get in touch with themselves and think that they cannot go longer with these energy consumption spending habits. The smart meters will only help us to better manager our bills and electricity spending but it is the humna kind that needs to make a change in other small things such as energy efficient lighbulbs, stoves powered by gas…etc. Smart Meters are a great invention and is the way to go but still, the World needs more towards our negative impact on the Earth.Thanks for the post, will recommend it.

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