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Baker Homes Blog

National 6 month study on energy performance – findings from 6,000 meter readings

Posted by Bill Wright on 21/10/15 07:30

Baker Homes has completed the data gathering for its National Energy Study 2, which is looking at the performance gap between predicted and actual energy use in homes, as well as some of the motivators that affect changing energy-use behaviour. Over six thousand meter readings were undertaken.

   Bill Wright taking one of his hundreds of meter readings for the study 
The aim was to gather summer data as well as winter data, in order to get a good look at the ways energy is used year-round. From the analysis it is clear that there are huge differences in how much energy various people use, and some use more energy in the summer as others use in the winter.

We visited over 500 two-bedroom homes around the country on a monthly basis for seven months. These visits have taken us to some beautiful parts of the country and allowed us to meet many interesting people.

Meters may be accessible outside the building without the need to bother the resident. Or they may be in basements, the back of kitchen cupboards, under the stairs, behind the fridge, or up so high in the hallway that we need to take a photo and zoom in to read it. Some need torches, mirrors, and there is even one type that is installed within the boiler and requires the removal of the cover in order to read it.

It hasn’t been possible to get to every meter. Apart from residents who weren’t at home (we left notes asking residents to get in touch and got a relatively good level of response from this) – there were residential blocks where the meters were in a locked room, or in a bank of unlabelled meters so we had no idea which belonged to who. One note on our recording form says ‘mice in meter cupboard’, there were spiders of all sizes and plenty of over-friendly dogs!

Additionally, some meters are difficult to read for a variety of reasons.

  • Some have multiple displays, it isn’t always clear which are the readings we need
  • If access to a meter is from an awkward angle it can be very easy to misread one number for another – e.g. a 1 for a 7, a 3 for a 5, a 5 for a 6, a 6 for an 8 and other errors too
  • Numbers may be written down wrongly – e.g. 6879 instead of 8679
  • Gas meters may measure in cubic feet or cubic metres. Some smart gas meters also display kWh
  • Errors with decimal points are also common – a reading can be given as 23456 when in fact it is 00234.56

On the other hand, we’ve been delighted to meet many very nice residents, who have very patiently emptied cupboards of hoovers, pushchairs, boxes of soap powder and a great many wellington boots to enable us to access their meters.

As shown, there are some interesting findings around performance of homes and their residents. We will discuss this and many other findings at the launch event.

It has prompted many conversations which help residents understand their energy better. Some people have a switch in their airing cupboard marked ‘Water Heater’. Because they need hot water, they leave this switch permanently on. What isn’t clear is that this is the immersion switch, so the immersion stays on permanently costing upwards of £20 per week, when the water could stay hot using the gas boiler for just £5 if the timer switch was used correctly.

Many homes with a gas supply also have Economy-7 electricity, which tends to mean that the cheaper night-rate energy is barely used, and the majority of their electricity is therefore bought at a premium rate, up to 30% more than a single rate tariff.

While visiting homes we identified gas leaks, and have also been able to pass on useful knowledge on timer switches, LED lighting, solar panels and insulation, and how to switch supplier.

The first National Energy Study identified how residents who were given positive feedback on their energy bills made measurable savings. It was also able to measure the extent to which homes with higher SAP did not necessarily relate to reduced energy bills.

NES2 was designed to investigate these findings in closer detail. The energy data has been assessed against more detailed asset management information to try to measure the actual benefit to residents, experienced as a result of various energy performance improvements. Come and join us to discuss the findings of this research at the Homes 2015 Event on Thursday 19th November at 9:30am. It would be great to see you there, to register for the launch event click here.

We would like to thank all housing associations involved in this important national research: Gentoo Group, Hastoe Housing Association, Home Group, Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association, Knightstone Housing Association, Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association, Liverpool Mutual Homes, Midland Heart, Nottingham City Homes, Raven Housing Trust, Sanctuary Group, Thames Valley Housing, Your Homes Newcastle.

If you want to keep up-to-date with the findings of this research, make sure you subscribe to out blogs in the top right hand corner of this page.


Topics: Social housing, National Energy Study, Energy

SHIFT Awards 2015, the UK’s sustainability awards for social landlords.
10th November 2015 | the Palace Hotel | Manchester
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