Research to pinpoint power-hungry appliances that could help cut home energy bills

Home appliances with an energy advice label
19 Feb 2013 13:07:40.737


New research by The University of Nottingham and energy company E.ON could help people to save money on their energy bills by identifying which of their household electrical appliances are using the most power.

Smart meters, which could help consumers to save money, are planned to be installed in every UK home by 2019. In readiness, the Nottingham academics are developing a range of mobile apps to monitor energy use and make small changes to cut electricity bills.

The work by a research team from The University of Nottingham is being carried out as part of E.ON’s Thinking Energy project.

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Dr Benjamin Bedwell, research fellow in the University’s School of Computer Science, explained: “Previous research has shown that it is often difficult to change our day-to-day habits to save energy, and that the resulting savings may seem tiny. In contrast, significant savings – both in finance, convenience and carbon emissions – might be made by identifying and addressing troublesome appliances.”

The way people use power-hungry appliances in the home has a major impact on energy bills and carbon footprints. Data collected by in-home sensors can help to better understand the energy use of these appliances, and whether small changes to the way they are used might allow people to save energy and money.

Researchers aim to show how a range of innovative services can empower consumers to use and maintain their existing appliances more effectively to help save money and reduce carbon emissions, and also to upgrade them as they become inefficient.

The research will use data collected when E.ON partnered with Milton Keynes Council and the National Energy Foundation to install smart home technology in 75 homes in Milton Keynes last year. Using this data the research will focus on developing services that are easy to use and understand, while also providing real savings to the customer.

While facts and figures provided by appliance manufacturers may assure people of appliances’ economic and green credentials, the reality is often very different, especially when appliances are used in everyday environments and have aged.

Dr Bedwell said: “Signs in the data gathered on the energy consumption of the appliances can provide advance warning of depreciation or failure of an appliance, allowing us to proactively maintain, and help avoid a costly breakdown later on. A detailed record might also allow us to spot any changes to our home that have an impact on the performance of our appliances.”

However, the data the smart meters produce only provides insights into how the home as a whole, or its inhabitants collectively, consume energy. To make targeted recommendations for behaviour change, maintenance or purchasing, it is necessary to have more detailed data on energy consumption. The smarter plugs used by people in the Thinking Energy trial allow just that.

Chris Rimmer, E.ON New Technologies Programme Manager, agreed: “Customers find it hard to make good decisions as they rely on the data given to them at the time of purchase. Through the real-time data provided in the Thinking Energy project and the analysis carried out by the University’s research team, we hope to make it easier to understand if and when that old freezer should be replaced, and prove that it makes a difference to your energy bill.”

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

About E.ON:
• E.ON is one of the UK's leading power and gas companies - generating electricity, retailing power and gas, developing gas storage and undertaking gas and oil exploration and production. It is part of the E.ON group, one of the world's largest investor-owned power and gas companies. E.ON employs around 12,000 people in the UK and more than 79,000 worldwide;
• In the UK, E.ON supplies power and gas to around five million domestic, small and medium-sized enterprise and industrial customers - meaning the company has to buy approximately 122.7 billion kWh of power and gas each year to meet their needs. E.ON also offers innovative energy services and technologies tailored to meet its customers' needs, and is helping customers become energy efficient by encouraging them to insulate their homes, moderate their energy usage and even generate their own power;
• For more information about E.ON visit

Horizon Digital Economy Research:

This study has been carried out by A Digital Economy Research Institute at The University of Nottingham.
Established in 2009, this venture represents an initial £40 million investment by Research Councils UK (RCUK), The University of Nottingham and over 100 academic and industrial partners; in both a Research Hub and Doctoral Training Centre within the RCUK Digital Economy programme.
Building on the Digital Britain plan, Horizon research focuses on the role of ‘always on, always with you’ ubiquitous computing technology. Our aim is to investigate the technical developments needed if electronic information is to be controlled, managed and harnessed — for example, to develop new products and services for societal benefit. For more information visit

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More information is available from Dr Benjamin Bedwell on +44 (0)115 823 2557,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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