how I quit smoking energy data

This piece about UX research on smart meters could be retitled “How I Quit Smoking The Data”, to say nothing of this one.

I really dislike a lot of the funky energy/M2M/Internet of Things concepts because they basically shame you for boiling the kettle, and either work because you do daft middle class lifestyle bollocks to work around them if you can, or don’t because you just stop caring and let the battery run down if you can’t. Dan Lockton is a clever guy and he tries hard, but when the kids are yelling, do you honestly want an air raid siren telling you the washing machine is running?

My parents have recently got a smart meter, which doesn’t actually pick up on the power generated by their solar panels, but does allow them to feel superior about hyper-optimising the thing. Until someone advised them to turn off the “economy” setting on their boiler, they were collecting warm water that they ran off the tap to use in the cistern. Impressive, until you realise that you pretty much have to be both completely un-worried about your heating bills and also retired for this to be possible. And it may have saved a whole pound.

There’s also a deep link between these projects and the long history of tiresome well-off people giving the poor lectures about their cooking and such, so well mocked by Orwell. These days, though, Lady Bountiful has outsourced herself to a Chinese ODM’s $20 Android module and a sliver of O2 UK data service, and doesn’t need to show up at the community centre with the grey tea any more.

Controls help, of course, but mostly when you go from “no control” to “modern”. After all, over Christmas, we got a message from Npower announcing that they’re actually cutting our energy bill after the new boiler and the controls were installed. This is literally the first time this has ever happened to me. Technology is the solution, of course, it just matters a great deal what technology.

The lesson here is both that insulation and keeping up to the planning code really will help your energy problem, rather than just provide a better class of blame, and rockwool doesn’t talk.

2 Comments on "how I quit smoking energy data"

  1. +1
    Yes, we had one (a present) and let it go flat. We also have a new boiler (as the last one was condemned) and some allegedly A rated aluminium double glazing (it’s very new they said when they came to fix something) which manifestly isn’t as good as plastic would have been, but looks much nicer. Also more insulation and boarding in the loft (by a couple of cheerful Brummies called something like ‘the loft lads’).


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