There may be many reasons the bill from the electricity company is no laughing matter. Maybe it is because the living room temperature is 30° all year around due to a fondness of walking around in bare feet and t-shirt. Maybe you live in a house and cannot push the thermometer past 17° regardless of how high you crank up the thermostat, because the house is about as windproof as the average tent.
Collaborating with DTU Informatics and other partners, Elsparefonden is currently finalizing a free, internet based platform designed to inform in great detail whether it is the state of the home or the habits of its residents that need improvement. Today, this kind of information is only available through an energy consultant, who usually charges up to 10.000 DKR.
Göran Wilke, head of secretariat at Elsparefonden explains about the platform which is named Min E-bolig:
“The philosophy behind Min E-bolig is closely related to that of the Danish health care sector. We cannot afford to send specialists and professors out to people who are only a little unwell. Instead we have different tools such as the thermometer or a blood pressure monitor which we use to perform a self-check. If you then conclude that you are seriously ill you go to a specialist. The principle behind Min E-bolig is exactly the same. We wish to provide the users with a tool to check of their homes are unwell or healthy. If your home shows clear signs of illness you should contact an energy consultant to get the residence analyzed in greater detail.”
An X-ray image of your home
To perform a self-check of a home it is necessary to create an account at Elsparefondens portal, Min E-bolig. Once the account is created and a floor plan of the home has been provided alongside other information concerning the residence has been provided, the portal becomes a personal and confidential journal of the home. The portal then collects a series of information from public registers regarding the residence. It continuously receives reports about energy consumption from the power company, and last but not least it gets DMI weather data (Danish Meteorological Institute) from the nearest weather station.
When this information is correlated, interesting facts present themselves about the residence, according to DTU’s Professor Henrik Madsen:
“At DTU Informatics we have developed what we call stochastic dynamic models designed to compare time-series from the weather station which enables us to map how energy consumption varies depending on how much the wind blows and the temperature outside.”
You do not have to be a scientist to figure out that most homes by far use more energy during the winter than in the summer on in-door heating. What makes Min E-bolig unique however is that it can tell very precisely where a home can be improved and thereby save energy. For this to be possible Henrik Madsen has developed a model based on statistical calculation – a so called Hidden Markov model. This basically means that Min E-bolig can work as a crystal ball:
“The portal describes the circumstances that an energy consultant will not immediately be able to see. For example, Min E-bolig can after a period of frosty nights observe that heat quickly disappears from the home. It will then conclude that this is caused by long wavelength emission from the roof toward outer space and that further isolating the roof will be a good idea. The energy consultant would observe that the energy bill has reached a high level during the year, but without knowledge of the hidden layers in the residence as well as its heat-dynamic properties, the consultant probably would not point towards the roof alone as the root problem”, says Henrik Madsen.
Based on the statistical and mathematical expertise that Henrik Madsen and his colleagues at DTU Informatics has provided Min E-bolig with, the portal is able to give a statistical x-ray of the residence and at the same time provide a more precise energy signature:
“It is commonly known that two different energy consultants in certain cases can reach very different energy ratings of the same home. An energy consultant will often perform a subjective assessment of the house and compare it to the heating bill. Such an assessment is inaccurate compared to the energy rating that Min E-bolig offers”, according to Henrik Madsen.
Big Brother is moving in
To be able to monitor energy consumption and learn where heat disappears to an intelligent electricity meter is necessary. The meter is able to send information to Min E-bolig through the internet. Being one of the 350.000 lucky customers at SEAS-NVE will allow you to check the state of your home during 2010. A number of other power companies are also seeing the light, so within a couple of years most Danes will have a ‘smart-meter’ installed on their old electricity monitor.
When the ‘smart-meter’ has moved in with every household it will be possible to survey everything with an electronic pulse. The company ENFOR has specialized in developing software to the energy sector. At the moment Henrik Aalborg Nielsen is developing another feature for Min E-bolig that enables users to divide energy consumption in subgroups:
“Many of us are willing to save the energy, but we lack the overview to see where we can save. With the help of the software we are developing right now it will be possible to answer how big a part of one’s energy consumption is used on e.g. cooking, lighting, multi-media or standby functions. It will also be possible to see at which hour of the day various energy consuming apparatuses are on. Some might discover that their children’s electrical equipment when they are at school. This would make for an obvious place to save energy,” says Henrik Aalborg Nielsen.
Overconsumption of energy strains the environment with CO₂ emissions and besides that it is a waste of money. Elsparefonden estimates that the average Dane can save 10% or more of their energy consumption if they merely monitor it on Min E-bolig. If we take the step further and change the worst apparatuses as well as become better at turning off unused equipment the savings could be even greater – a prospect that Göran Wilke is very excited about:
“To me the concept of Min E-bolig is a small revolution. Min E-bolig digitalizes the household and takes advantage of the fact that users have internet. Why send expensive energy consultants to ‘healthy’ houses when the consumers themselves can perform the preliminary tests and use advanced online tools? That’s what’s smart!”
If you have been inspired and want to get a statistical x-ray taken of your house, visit www.minbolig.elsparefonden.dk
About 'Min E-BOLIG':
At Min E-bolig you have the possibility of comparing your own energy consumption to homes similar to your own. With the help of Min E-bolig you will get notified through e-mail if your energy consumption increases or decreases significantly. To sell a residence the law still requires a certified energy consultant to carry out an energy rating.