DECC publishes Costing Monitoring Equipment Report

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DECC (now BEIS) has published CAR’s report about the best monitoring equipment to use for a large, national survey of energy use in the home.

CAR worked with Loughborough University, Teddinet and the University of Cambridge to examine the costs of installing energy monitoring equipment in up to 10,000 homes. This built on a feasibility study for a large-scale longitudinal survey, originally called ‘LUKES’.

The survey would involve a large-scale socio-technical survey of homes across the UK. Our work specified appropriate monitoring equipment to use in the survey, and estimated likely costs.

We carried out a literature review, and consulted widely with the home energy monitoring community, including running an Expert Panel workshop. We also asked suppliers and manufacturers of monitoring equipment to give prices for their equipment – in small numbers and at scale.

We proposed three possible packages of monitoring equipment, costing from £210 to £970 per dwelling. We also built a Cost Calculator including technical specifications and costs for 49 different devices.

Our work found that off-the-shelf monitoring equipment has proved more reliable than bespoke systems so far, but most systems have some teething problems, and it would be a mistake to assume that any monitoring equipment will be ‘fit and forget’. Ongoing operational costs, including periodic checks of equipment and to replace batteries, are likely to cost from £50 to £200 per home, depending on the exact configuration of monitoring equipment.

Long-term reliability concerns are a compelling argument for piloting equipment before it is installed at scale. Some of the reliability issues are related to the skills and past experience of installers, and we cannot be certain that monitoring equipment will record data as intended, in a form suitable for policy-related analysis, without testing the equipment, the installation team, and the delivery of information to analysis systems.

Regarding future costs of monitoring equipment, it seems unlikely that monitoring hardware costs will fall – because microchips are a small proportion of the total cost. Similarly, installation costs are unlikely to change very much. However, monitoring reliability and particularly the reliability of home and wide networks are likely to improve over time.

Device capability is also likely to improve, including potential to support disaggregation analysis (identifying energy use for different purposes and appliances). This is a case for delaying or phasing the selection of monitoring systems until the technology is more established.

There is potential for the longitudinal survey to make use of Smart Meters now installed in more than one million UK homes, with roll-out continuing. This could be an economical way to collect total gas and electricity use data.

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