Smart Homes

If you forget to switch your home lights off when you go out, you will soon be able to do it using your smartphone after a trial carried out in Milton Keynes.

For the last year, 75 families in Milton Keynes have been trying out devices that allow you to manage your electrical appliances remotely over the internet.

Energy company E.ON are now planning to make the equipment and service available across the UK.

That means you will also be able to switch your kettle on while you are out of the house.

Every home taking part in Milton Keynes received a Home Energy Management System (HEMS), which features technology measuring electricity and gas use in the home.  Through smart plugs, you can also control the energy use of your TV, PC, washing machine or fridge.

It means the days of worrying whether lamps or hair straighteners have been left on are over.  With a couple of clicks they can be checked and turned off if necessary.

Chris Rimmer, Programme Manager for E.ON's Thinking Energy project, said: "We're always striving to help our customers manage their lives and through innovations such as smart home technology, they're able to easily visualise and manage energy use in the home.  It's about living with your home instead of just living in it.

"By taking part in Thinking Energy, people have been able to see how much energy is being used by appliances around the home.  In many cases, seeing is believing because the HEMS provides personalised summaries about the cost of daily living."

"We've been really excited about the feedback received.  In some cases, participants are becoming educated about how much they are spending on cooking or lighting.  One household has even saved hundreds of pounds annually by optimising underfloor heating.

On a smaller scale, although still important, others have been surprised at how little a cup of tea costs.  As a result, over three-quarters of them have changed the way they use energy in their homes.  It's a clear indication that by using innovative technology and putting the power in peoples' hands, people can easily make significant energy and financial savings."

In addition to their HEMS, some of the homes in the Milton Keynes trial will shortly be fitted with technology that can link solar panels and washing machines or dishwashers, so these only run when solar output is high.

Judith Kaye lives in Shenley Lodge, Milton Keynes, is one of the participants of the Thinking Energy trial, said: "Using the smartphone app to control our electrical appliances has also allowed us to manage our home in a way that suits our lives. When I'm out walking the dog, I can heat the kettle and switch on the lights when I'm close to home, so everything is ready when I open the front door."

"My mum who's 82 and lives with us is very impressed by the technology. She has an iPhone and is using the app to make her life a lot easier.

"Before we installed the Smart Plus technology, she used to keep her lights on all the time so she could see where she was going at night. Now, when she's ready to go to bed, she can use the app to turn on the lights she needs and has been able to make significant energy savings."

Geoff Snelson, Milton Keynes Council's Director of Strategy, said: "We have an ambition that Milton Keynes is recognised as Britain's premier digital smart city. Thinking Energy is one of our key projects and shows how we are working with commercial partners and using technology to boost our economy and deliver direct benefits for residents, including savings in their energy costs".  

Ian Byrne, Deputy Director of the National Energy Foundation, added: "The Milton Keynes homes are showing how the use of energy can be improved by innovative - but easy to use - technology.  This will help householders keep control over their bills and match their use of energy to the times that it is available from cleaner sources, such as solar panels on the homes' roofs."

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