Smart energy meters are seen as being crucial in the quest to improve the sustainability of our housing stock, yet we hardly know anything about how we can use them. The aim of a new OTB measurement campaign in houses in South Holland is to establish whether smart meters can contribute to improved energy savings and help provide custom advice.

Armed with boxes full of measurement equipment, TU Delft students are currently fanning out to houses with a smart meter in South Holland. In the boxes are a presence detector, a router and an array of meters to gauge humidity, temperature, CO2, and electricity and gas usage. These can all be connected to the smart meter in the house. The final part of the package is a mini PC, which saves the collated data and transmits them to the central database of the E-Common research project once a day. ‘Analysing this data will help us to determine whether automated custom advice can be provided using smart meters’, explains Laure Itard, Project Manager in the Housing Quality group of OTB.

The research also aims to offer insight into the level of comfort experienced by residents. To help determine these levels, the 60 residents selected to participate in the project have been given an app on their smartphones. They can use the app to submit information about their activities and their thermic comfort. Itard believes that this is an essential component of the research, as existing theories on energy saving and comfort are primarily centred on laboratory-based research. ‘We have good reason to doubt whether those findings are correct’, says Itard. ‘Because people are accustomed to their own homes, they are not quick to complain.’ The research project also focuses on the extent to which improved insulation and more energy-efficient heating systems actually result in reduced energy consumption. Air quality is also tested, as during an initial measurement campaign, ventilation in the houses proved to be lacking. Power grid operator Enexis and various consultancy agencies are involved in the project. 

The TU Delft measurement campaign started 2.5 years ago with measurements in 32 public housing homes (Monicair.nl). The aim of the three subsequent rounds of measurements that are now planned is to provide a more representative impression. Measurements will be carried out in three different seasons in 60 owner-occupied and rented houses, both older and newly-built properties. Two PhD students (Tasos Ioannou and Arash Rasooli) are working on the project, supported by a senior researcher (Arjen Meijer), the secretariat and approximately ten students from TU Delft and The Hague University of Applied Sciences, who will tend to the installations. The meters are installed throughout the entire house and measure the energy usage pattern. The researchers subsequently relate this pattern to data about the house and information provided by residents about their pattern of life and their well-being. An algorithm will then be developed based on this large-scale data mining. In due course, this algorithm should enable automated custom advice to be provided for each house or row of houses. 

Another potential application is determining the data required to calculate the energy label of a house. This is currently calculated using generic resources. Research will be conducted to see whether it is possible to use a smart meter and several sensors to calculate extremely accurately how well a house is insulated, and hence which energy label it should be awarded.

The E-Common project will conclude in 2019. The Housing Quality group still requires a number of participants for the campaign in November. Please note that participants’ houses need to be fitted with a (new) smart meter. You can register via www.otb.bk.tudelft.nl/ecommon or by sending an email to ecommon@tudelft.nl.