Smiley emoticons help homes save energy, study finds

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Sending people feedback on their home energy use in the form of smiley or sad face emoticons affects the way that energy efficiency is perceived, a new study has shown.   

The National Energy Study of over 500 households in 14 housing associations across England, conducted by UK-GBC member Sustainable Homes, found that those who received feedback on the amount of gas and electricity they used were more likely to reduce their energy use, as opposed to a control group who just received energy saving tips.

Those who received feedback were likely to cut their electricity bills by an average of 8 per cent and by 3.6 per cent on their gas bills.

The most effective form of feedback was smiley face emoticons, which ranged from a happy yellow sunshine (to represent the lowest 25 per cent of energy use) to a sad red face (the highest 25 per cent of energy users).

The study concluded that feedback could lead to a potential saving of £79 a year per home or 2.7million tonnes of carbon collectively – as much as if every home in the UK had loft insulation.

Andrew Eagles, managing director of Sustainable Homes, said: “These findings will be of great interest to anyone concerned with cutting energy bills - which, of course, is most of us.

“We know that people are always keen to save money, but what this study uncovers is that their natural desire for approval is at least as important, and probably more so.”

The results suggest that incorporating some form of feedback into smart meters could be a simple and cheap method to encourage households to reduce energy consumption, as well as cutting bills.

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