In most households, washing machines are the biggest energy guzzlers – but, to coin a phrase, not many people know that.
In surveys in the United Kingdom and Bulgaria, only 17 per cent of people correctly named washing machines as the largest consumers of energy in their households, according to a European Commission statement on a new "information dashboard" that helps people reduce their energy use.
Consumers reduced energy use by an average eight per cent when provided with an "information dashboard" about their energy use, the statement said.
"The Digital Environment Home Energy Management System (DEHEMS) project shows that when a consumer receives more information about their energy use, and can share and compare this with neighbours and family, they are more likely to change their behaviour."
The EU-funded system presents data every six seconds through a small digital display.
The data can also be displayed in real time via a TV screen, mobile phone, PC or social media app.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "People make better choices when they have better information at hand. The DEHEMS project shows that very simple technologies can go a long way to helping Europe reduce energy use".
The DEHEMS system could set a huge trend in the coming years, the European Commission statement said.
Two commercial products are now available: The "Energyhive" (www.energyhive.co.uk) and its network that enables members to get a real time view of their home energy consumption 24/7 through a web browser and "Greenica" (www.greenica.net) which offers special products for homes, schools and small businesses.
"Thanks to a partnership between Hildebrand and IBM, the DEHEMS project and its lessons will soon be used by businesses both in Europe and worldwide," the statement said.
Major deployment is foreseen with Smart Grids Australia (involving 50 000 homes) and a district heating initiative in Camden, London.
The Family House Association in Birmingham is looking to use DEHEMS-type technology thanks to the results achieved so far, the statement said.
The DEHEMS Dashboard is a screen which can be seen on a stand-alone monitor, as well as on a variety of hand held devices, smart phones and PCs. The dashboard can profile the average daily energy usage according to the number of bedrooms, the number of occupants and property type.
Since data is transmitted via the internet to a central server, comparisons can be made between households of the same type. Therefore, users are not only informed about their own energy consumption, but can also see if they are high, medium or low energy users, compared to others in the same category.
This data is anonymous – personal data is not shared, but enough data is shared to make useful comparisons.
It is thus possible, for example, for a two-occupant, single bedroom flat consuming 17kWh of energy a day to be informed that their household is consuming the energy equivalent to a three-occupant, three-bedroom household.
The DEHEMS project received an EU financial contribution of 2 878 434 euro towards the total budget of 3 728 473 euro.
The project partnership includes a mix of European local authorities, private business and universities, including, in the UK, Manchester city council, Birmingham city council; Bristol city council; Clicks and Links Ltd; Coventry University; Hildebrand Technology Ltd; University of Salford; in Bulgaria: Ivanovo Municipality; Energy Agency Plovdiv; University of Rousse, and in Romania, the Institute e-Austria Timisoara and Technical University of Cluj-Napoca.