Smart energy system claims heat pump savings


27 July 2021

Developers say a new smart system for controlling the use of electric heating and household appliances has the potential to save consumers money on bills and make air source heat pumps cheaper to run than gas-powered systems.

The system, which is still in the research phase, would allow people to take advantage of complex energy tariff structures by automating their use of heat pumps and electrical appliances to shift electricity usage to periods of low grid demand, when tariffs are cheaper. 

A two-year trial of the system, called the Optimised Forecasting for Switching Energy Tariffs (OFfSET) project, found that consumers could save between £13-26 per year for each electrical appliance tested, while heat pumps could save up to £160 per year depending on the specifics of the home*. 

The project, funded by Innovate UK, was a collaboration between Samsung , innovative smart energy platform Passiv UK, energy comparison site MyUtilityGenius, and built environment experts BRE.

Samsung is responsible for the ‘SmartThings’ platform and offers household appliances and heat pump systems that can be controlled via SmartThings. Samsung worked with Passiv UK to incorporate Passiv’s home energy management solutions into SmartThings, while Passiv further developed their prediction and automation algorithms to allow optimised control of Samsung heat pumps and smart appliances in trial homes.

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Under the project, Passiv UK also developed a means of predicting heating demand for a home and determining when heating could operate to achieve the required comfort levels while avoiding traditional peak demand times. This fed into the MyUtilityGenius predictive tariff switching model to assess how this could bring savings via Time of Use tariffs. The automation and optimisation process was trialled in a selection of homes during the project, with feedback from households independently assessed by BRE’s social scientists. 

Pre-heating the home during periods of cheaper electricity (corresponding to less grid demand) allowed consumers to reduce the need for the heating to be on during times of traditionally high grid demand (morning and early evening peaks). User comfort was not impacted during the course of the heating optimisation trials, with users all happy to control their heating preferences via the OFfSET control app. 

The optimisations invariably resulted in the heating being activated more overnight, which was not traditionally the norm for most users. 

The next stage of the project will see further refinements to how electrical appliances are optimised to run at the lowest cost, while there will also be developments to allow the predictive tariff switching function to become part of the MyUtilityGenius tariff comparison service for customers. 

Kevin O’Leary, business manager for heating products at Samsung, said: “The actual cost of electricity can vary between 5p/kWh and 30p/kWh at different times of day. Shifting some usage away from expensive periods can help make the cost of running air source heat pumps cheaper than gas-powered heating systems.”

*Savings may vary depending on specifics of the home ie. size of property, level of insulation etc.