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CharIoT on course to deliver lower energy bills… and healthier homes

December 7, 2016 - Successful trials of CharIoT—a system that simultaneously records temperature, humidity and energy use in the home—have opened the way for low-income households to save money while reducing risks to their health.


December 7, 2016
By Anthony Capkun

That, according to the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which has funded the development of CharIoT by Southampton and Nottingham universities, and the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE).

“[CharIoT] makes it easy for advisors to understand what’s going on energy-wise in a house, to make the householder aware of what the problems are and, ultimately, to get their buy-in to make the necessary beneficial changes,” said Dr. Enrico Costanza, who led the research while at the University of Southampton.

Harnessing IoT (internet of things) technology, the system generates easy-to-use data that can help local authorities, housing associations, energy suppliers, health authorities and others to target and tailor the energy advice they give to vulnerable people, explains EPSRC.

As well as revealing under-/over-heated parts of a home, CharIoT enables energy advisors to pinpoint where and why damp or mould may pose a problem. They can then suggest, for example, ways of using heaters more efficiently and cost-effectively, blocking draughts and eliminating dampness through better ventilation.

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“It’s not just a question of cutting energy use and greenhouse emissions,” insisted Dr. Nick Banks of CSE. “By giving energy advisors a tool that allows them to inform themselves and then sit down with a householder and talk through problems and solutions, [CharIoT] offers a very practical route to making wiser energy choices and, therefore, improving quality of life and enhancing health among vulnerable and low-income groups, who often suffer serious health impacts due to cold and damp homes.”

Each CharIoT kit includes three small wireless sensors that regularly record the temperature and humidity in the rooms in which they are placed, and wireless devices that monitor gas and electricity consumption. Data is forwarded to—and kept securely on—a remote server, and later analyzed via a straightforward web-based interface.

CharIoT has now been trialled in over 20 low-income homes, says EPSRC. A user guide helps energy advisors “make the most of the graphs and tables the system generates”, and provides tips geared toward individual households needs, including measures as simple as fitting thicker insulation to improving air circulation.

EPSRC believes CharIoT is of benefit to all households, not just low-income ones, so it is being promoted to potential user organizations across the United Kingdom. The CharIoT team is also exploring ways of adding further functionality.

The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is a funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research in the United Kingdom.