Translated version of original article located here

An experiment of 127 households in Middelfart shows that intelligent heat management can reduce heat consumption and heating bills. Read about the experiment and the savings.

How great are the savings with intelligent energy management?

The savings of 7 percent corresponds, according to Bolius’ estimation that an average family in a typical house from 1960 – 1970 of 130 square meters can save about 782 kr. a year, if the housing is heated with district heating and about 1,130 kr. If the home is heated with natural gas.

Management of the heat in the housing will be based on behaviour

In addition to the effectiveness of the technical solution, the researchers also paid attention to whether the technology could titillate homeowners’ interest in energy conservation in general.

When the SEIH project began two and a half years ago, all the houses existing heating installations became equipped with a control unit which automatically switch on and off the heat supply, as it was linked to a central temperature sensor in the Livingroom.

Via Internet, the controller had connection to a superior control unit with updated weather data for the area. The system was set to lower the temperature during the night period during the heating season and automatically switch on again, so residents didn’t woke up to a cool house.

English PassiveSystems supplied the control units and components of the underlying software. What, according to Passive Systems, separate their solution from others was that the system collected data about users’ habits, so the system over time could adjust the indoor temperature without homeowner intervention.

Changing behavior gave the greatest savings on the heating bills

However, although automation was the goal, the researchers and stakeholders with SEIH project got proof that the greatest savings are achieved when the homeowner engages in efforts to achieve energy savings.

“The residents, who not only had the night setback, but also took advantage of the possibilities to adjust the system setting, achieved savings of up to 15 per cent, by also lowering the temperature a few degrees in the daytime or ordering temperature reduction online during weekends and holiday periods when they were not at home,” says Ole Michael Jensen, head of research at the Danish Building Research.

Based on the data collected on homeowners’ heating consumption, participants were offered individual counseling by Bolius.

Larger heat savings in the UK than in Denmark

Prior to the SEIH project’s beginning, expectations were high since a similar project in England have shown average savings of between 14 and 21 per cent. Such large savings were the Danish participants not near to achieve, and there may according to the research director be several reasons to that.

One explanation may be that a typical Danish house is cooled relatively slowly compared to a typical English house. Because of that, there is not as much to save by turning off the heat at night.

“Conversely is draws an interesting perspective for Danish brick houses. When they cool slowly, it means that they can operate as heat batteries. Therefore, in the not too distant future, they become active players in the smart grid, where electric heat pumps may provide heating during periods of excess power, which later can be released slowly as heat in the houses,” says Ole Michael Jensen.

Biggest savings in younger houses with lightweight structures

The measurements from Middelfart also showed that younger houses built in the period 1962-1985 with lightweight structures achieved the biggest savings, while older houses with heavy structures achieved the smallest savings.

Since the termination of the SEIH project, English Passive Systems withdrew completely from the Danish market, but there are still solutions on the market that lets you remotely control and pre-program the temperature in your house.

Among others, Danfoss has made a series of so-called living thermostats that can be controlled by software on your phone, computer or tablet.

Results give insight about the future

Both Bolius and Realdania are pleased with the project, which has provided valuable insight into the prospects that lie in a more intelligent approach to the heat consumption. The responsible program manager at Realdania, Lennie Clausen, also strongly underlines that the SEIH project results give cause for optimism.

“We (in Realdania, ed.) have a philanthropic strategy that focuses on projects that bring tangible results, while also helping to solve complex and significant societal challenges. I must greatly say that the project in Middelfart have done.

“Imagine an energy reduction of 7 per cent in all Danish homes. In addition to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, it will inspire the rest of the world if we accelerate the use of technology in homes in Denmark,” says Lennie Clausen.

Foto: Torben Klint

By installing technology that automatically lowers the housing temperature by night and when no one is at home, you will be saving 7 % on your heating bill. 

This example is one of the conclusions after the Danish Building Research Institute (SBI) has evaluated the results from the so-called “Smart Energy Home” project (SEIH), where 127 single-family homes in Middelfart was installed technology for intelligent heat management.