New report finds smarter way to make homes more energy efficient

A new approach to measuring heat loss from homes with smart meters will make buildings more energy efficient and cut CO2, say researchers.

Loughborough University has just completed a key part of a £4m project funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) called the Smart Meter Enabled Thermal Efficiency Ratings (SMETER) Innovation Programme.

The £1.1m scheme, carried out in partnership with Halton Housing, Leeds Beckett University and UCL, tested and developed eight different meters that measure thermal performance in 30 homes – two-storey houses and single-storey bungalows built between around 1927 and 1990.

Smart meters were installed in every home to measure gas and electricity demand, and temperature and relative humidity sensors were installed in five to eight rooms of each home.

Researchers found that the concept of using smart meter data to measure thermal performance is effective. SMETERs could play a role, not only in the energy rating of homes, but also in quantifying the improvement to energy efficiency following refurbishment and identifying under-performance of new homes.

Loughborough led the evaluation phase which was aimed as measuring the Heat Transfer coefficient (HTC) in a blind trial against HTC as measured using a gold standard physical method (co-heating test).

The SMETER innovation competition technical evaluation report has now been published, including details of the individual performance of the different SMETER products which took part in the trial.

Dr David Allinson, of the Building Energy Research Group (BERG) in Loughborough’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, said: “The SMETER Programme has demonstrated that we can measure the performance of our homes in a relatively inexpensive and non-intrusive way using smart meter data.

“National implementation of in-use performance metrics for buildings would be a world-first and could help ensure that we all live in better performing homes that really do save energy, are less expensive to heat, and do reduce our harmful carbon emissions.

“It is exciting to be working with fantastic collaborators at the forefront of research and innovation in this important area.”

Following the success of this work, BEIS has commissioned AECOM and Loughborough University to support a new SMETER Business Process Design project, phase 1 of which is now underway.

The goal of this project is to develop analysis which enables BEIS and DLUHC to reach conclusions on the feasibility, approach, and business case for developing arrangements for the national implementation of in-use performance metrics in support of Net Zero housing and heating.

Lee Reevell, Head of Innovation & Architecture at Halton Housing, said “Social landlords have big targets to hit, with a minimum EPC requirement of C by 2035 and Netzero by 2050.

“With a combined total of 4.1 million social homes in the UK we understand the importance to the sector of developing new approaches to measuring the heat transfer coefficient (HTC) of our homes.

“The SMETER innovation programme has allowed us to understand how our buildings are performing, which measures we can take to improve their performance to meet new legislative requirement, as well as addressing fuel poverty in low-income households.”


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22.42

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.