Over the last year, we’ve spent up to 60% more time at home compared to before the pandemic. That’s not too surprising given that our homes are doubling up as offices, restaurants, gyms, schools and entertainment centres. However, as a result, we’ve seen a massive rise in domestic emissions as well as our energy consumption bills.
Silently but surely, households are becoming one of the largest CO2 emitters – and that’s even before any widespread transition to electric vehicles and EV charging at home. This trend is being observed throughout the world. A study from the Wall Street Journal shows that New York City apartments are consuming 23% more electricity during business hours. In France, electricity bills increased up to 100 euros per month during lockdown, and energy prices having risen for millions of households across the UK.
Fortunately, modern smart home technologies can enable a more energy-efficient future by offering a glimpse into the inner workings of our homes. While it may seem counter–intuitive, installing and integrating smart sensors and technologies in the home helps us to stick to a more healthy ‘energy diet’. The best thing is that smart home tech empowers us to reduce consumption and be more sustainable without sacrificing the home comforts we enjoy.
The data doesn’t lie
We can’t reduce domestic emissions without the support and buy-in of home–owners and occupants. They are the people who need and consume the energy, so it’s critical that they’re in the driving seat. Yet convincing people to change their lives and alter their energy habits isn’t easy. Homes emit 30% of global CO2, but only 7% of consumers believe homes are serious polluters. A psychological shift is needed. First, it’s necessary to give consumers proof of domestic energy waste and emissions. Then you need put power in their hands to reduce them.
Data is the answer to these challenges. IoT-connected technologies, like smart sensors, can be installed in home energy systems. Everything from consumption to CO2 emissions can be recorded and collected, giving an accurate picture of energy use. However, the presence of smart sensors alone isn’t enough. There also needs to be an underlying platform that connects the myriad smart devices in the home, and manages them centrally. Take your heating and lighting systems for example. Do they need to be ‘on’ all the time? Most likely not, but in our busy lives we usually don’t have the time or bandwidth to monitor these systems round the clock.
This is one area where energy management software can help. A centralised platform can collate and summarise all this information, and display it on a dashboard in the home. The home–owner or occupier can then see quickly and clearly what is using the most energy and where the greatest efficiencies can be found. Smart tech gives us a better overview of our consumption habits, but the burden of action is still on us. Tech provides the insight, but we make the decisions necessary.
Home-builders and policymakers have a responsibility to encourage the uptake of such smart technologies. However, once consumers are able to see the energy waste they are creating, it’s likely adoption will accelerate. Indeed, the smart meter market is expected to grow nearly 7% in the next few years as consumers recognise and enjoy the benefits. Cutting wasteful energy use doesn’t just help the planet after all, it also helps consumer finances.
A retrofit revolution
Smarter and more informed energy usage is crucial, but a larger issue is lurking beneath the surface. Most building stock is not energy efficient. A home that has been around for decades – perhaps even a century – can be like a leaky sieve. No matter how much heat you pump into an old building, much of it will escape through poor insulation.
It’s estimated that 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built and are standing today. We won’t be able to make a dent in domestic emissions until we improve the underlying building stock. This can be achieved sustainably and cost-effectively through retrofitting. A retrofit can take various forms, from simply fitting insulation to removing gas boilers and replacing them with heat pumps and heat networks. In short, it’s about augmenting what already exists – extending the lifetime of old systems and enhancing their capabilities. The practice of digital retrofitting is much cheaper and can be done more effectively than ripping out and replacing old systems wholesale – while achieving very similar efficiency benefits.
We all have the power to make a difference, thanks to modern smart technologies. This isn’t just a matter of convenience or lower energy bills. It’s also about helping to heal the impact of humans on the planet, by giving people the power to achieve sustainability. If we think of energy as being the life support system of the home, smart technology should be considered the brain. The proper use of digital tools and insights from data can make energy consumption, energy loss and energy waste visible and actionable. We can cut our energy bills, improve our in-home experience and further our fight against climate change.
Read Jai Thampi, SVP Strategy & Innovation, recent blog on how we should build sustainable homes of the future
We all know we need to spend less energy and become more sustainable. But do people have the ability to make sustainable choices from the comfort of their homes…without giving up on their lifestyle choices? – Find out what Patrick Caiger Smith, Chairman of GEO have to say on this on my latest podcast: