The Energy Crisis: Revealing The True Cost of Home Ownership
Buying your dream car, no matter what make or model, is a big decision. Once you’ve found your perfect car in the right colour and at the right price, it’s tempting to buy it right there and then. But not many people do.
Instead, they go away to do some research – how much will it cost to insure and tax? How many miles per gallon will it do? Is it going to be cheaper to drive it to work or catch the train instead? When’s the MOT due? These sensible, practical questions all relate to the cost of ownership of the car, or simply put, how much it will cost to run in the long term.
So why don’t we do this with houses? Of course, you’ll think about the location, how far it is from work, whether it needs redecorating and whether it’s worth the asking price, but the costs of running the house? Not so much.
Why is this? Well, in the first instance, running costs can seem pretty insignificant compared to some of the major expenses involved in buying a house. Add to that the fact that the housing market is usually busiest in the spring time, when the weather starts to warm up and the heating goes off. Besides, it’s much more exciting to focus on where best to put your new sofa than how much you’ll be spending on heating your nice new home.
In the UK, it’s a legal requirement to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) when selling a home, but many people simply ignore it. EPCs can help people find out how efficient their home is, and direct them to areas where they can make changes to make it more energy efficient. However, an EPC doesn’t take into account the cost of running appliances and devices, nor does it consider energy produced through microgeneration.
For some, the true cost of home ownership only comes to light once the packing boxes are well and truly banished to the loft.
How can Smart Home technology help?
The cost of home ownership encompasses many things, including council tax, phone bills, insurance and utilities. Whilst a smart home can’t help you dodge council tax, it can help cut down on your utility bills.
Put an end to leaving devices on standby – instead, have your sockets switch off automatically when you leave the house or go to bed. This also works wonders if any female members of the household are prone to leaving hair straighteners on by accident!
Fridge freezers and tumble driers are notorious for being electricity greedy. With a smart home, you can temporarily switch them off to use other appliances, or charge your electric car, thus reducing your overall demand from the grid. This is particularly effective if you are producing your own electricity through solar panels.
In a smart home, leaving a light on is a thing of the past. Whether it’s a utility room or walk-in wardrobe, presence sensors are great for spaces where you just want to walk in and back out without worrying about finding the light switch.
How does it work? The presence sensor registers when you enter the room and the house responds by switching on the light. The light remains on for as long as you stay in the space, and then turns off when you leave.
Whilst installing a modern boiler is one of the best ways to streamline your heating efficiency, a smart home can make significant contributions to your heating bills:
- Intelligent zoned heating: allows you to control the temperature individually in every room of your home.
- Self-learning: Your heating learns how long it takes to bring a room to temperature, so it’s already warm when you need it, but doesn’t consume unnecessary energy.
- Automatic lowering: Have the heating lowered automatically in rooms where a window is opened.
- Frost protection: Put the house into ‘frost protection’ mode whilst you’re away on holiday to prevent burst pipes, but have it ready and warm for your return.
- Use solar energy: Harness the energy of the sun to bring your rooms to a comfortable temperature. In the morning, for example, the blinds will only come down when the room reaches the desired temperature.
Self Produced Electricity
With PV panels, there will often be times of the day when you have ‘free’ electricity available to you, as the panels produce more than is needed to maintain the background load. A smart home gives you the opportunity to manage this ‘free’ electricity and help you avoid buying back from the grid later in the day.
Those hoping to cut down on their bills by selling excess electricity back to the grid might want to reconsider. The Feed-In tariff is misleading in a way, since the bulk of what you actually get paid is for the electricity you have produced, rather than what you have fed into the grid.
The best way to get the maximum benefit from microgeneration is to channel the excess ‘free’ electricity you are producing. If you imagine your hot water tank as being a big battery, you can charge it up using the free electricity during the day so that it’s ready for you to have a hot bath in the evening. More on this topic here.
The same principle applies with electric cars – you can use the ‘free’ electricity generated throughout the day to charge your car, or run the washing machine, or turn on electric heaters that give off heat slowly.
Check out the ELK Passive House as a great example of efficient energy use in a smart home.