A glorious summer of sports is over, a lot of us are suffering from post-holiday blues, and children are back at school: are we prepared for all these signs of winter approaching?

Domestic electricity consumption increases during the winter. Part of this is explained by electric heating, but there are other reasons as well. People tend to spend more time at home during the winter which means that other electrical appliances are used more.

Is there a way in which we could become more “electricity-vigilant” and therefore save money? With the introduction of smart meters the answer is probably yes, but they exist primarily to provide information. The rest depends on our willingness to change our behaviour. By providing real time consumption figures, smart meters can help us to understand our electricity usage and take advantage of lower rates by adjusting usage and the time at which it is used.

Let’s take a simple example and see how potentially the insight that we would get from smart meters could benefit us. Figure 1 shows the average electricity consumption of a number of appliances and the associated cost:

Figure 1 – Cost of consumption for some typical appliances
* Peak rate 15.5p per kWh, off-peak rate 5.43p per kWh, off-peak time 00:00-07:00

The total weekly cost of the appliances in Figure 1 is £8.13. If we schedule the dishwasher and the washing machine to operate during the cheaper off-peak time and we turn off the standby, the total cost reduces to £4.56 – a 44% reduction. Whilst this may appear to be common sense, seeing the figures may nudge people into changing their behaviour.

Does behaviour change happen in reality?

Well it was trialed on a street in Brighton. In a three week period, the street’s average energy use dropped by 15%, with some people cutting usage by as much as 30%.

So smart meters could save the £ in our pocket, but can they also save the planet? The question is will they really reduce consumption, or just get us to switch to cheaper times? Figure 2 shows the electricity consumption by household domestic appliances from 2001 to 2011 based on data from the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Figure 2 – Total electricity consumption by household domestic appliances


Figure 2 suggests that consumers are already “electricity-vigilant” in some areas. The availability of low consumption light bulbs has led to a large decrease in the consumption due to light devices over the last few years. More efficient fridges and freezers are having a similar impact. So it appears that the public can be persuaded to reduce consumption.

Consumers helping providers to help consumers

There is one final benefit to smart meters that needs to be acknowledged. They will enable the collection of a vast amount of consumption data. This information will enable distributors to amend their production schedules to fit consumer consumption, and provide a smoother load of electricity during the day. The resultant efficiencies will reduce costs for the providers, which can then be passed on to the consumer. They should also lead to another reduction in overall production, which is good for the planet as well – a win, win, win all around

Are you convinced? Well, I am… On a positive note, according to a government commissioned survey the more respondents felt they knew about smart meters the more likely they were to want one.  I definitely fall into this category. Now I know that I ‘m going to be getting my smart meter as soon as I can!