The 25 most burning energy questions

In a very interesting and readable article, the digital magazine REPUBLIK has compiled the 25 most burning questions and answers about the current energy supply.

Especially with regard to our research project, point 9 should be noted: with our research in cooperation with the energy supply companies and the participating households, we contribute to a further development in data collection and consumption feedback to the customers.

Link to the article: : https://www.republik.ch/2022/10/27/geht-uns-diesen-winter-der-strom-aus-und-falls-ja-was-dann

What is standby?

Standby consumption, also called idle loss, is the electricity lost by electrical appliances when they are waiting in standby mode. Standby describes the state of appliances that are not completely switched off, but ready to receive a signal to act (e.g. turn on fully, make a coffee, print a document, etc.). This means that the power supply remains switched on so that the appliance is ready for immediate use. This is the case, for example, with monitors, televisions, TV boxes, etc. According to standby statistics from the Swiss Agency for Energy Efficiency, electronic devices in Swiss households consume around 160 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year in standby mode alone. This corresponds to the annual electricity consumption of about 40,000 typical four-person households [1].

Standby detectives

A group of students measured the standby consumption of all their electrical appliances at home and compared them with each other. They noticed the following things:

  • Devices from the audio, TV and IT sector have a much higher standby consumption compared to the other categories.
  • Larger appliances also tend to have a higher standby consumption.
  • Chargers often have very low standby consumption (e-bike charger slightly higher, but still comparatively low)

The three students draw their own conclusion: “It was exciting to see how different the standby consumption is and we were a little shocked to see how much power our consumer electronics constantly consume in standby mode.”

Measures to reduce standby consumption

To avoid wasting electricity, appliances should be switched off completely. You can even do this from the comfort of your couch with remote-controlled sockets. However, these do not always save electricity because they are constantly on standby due to their radio module and thus in turn have standby consumption themselves. So in terms of electricity consumption, a remote-controlled socket is only worthwhile if the electricity consumption without a remote-controlled socket consumes more electricity [2]. Mechanical switches such as a timer are better. This is possible thanks to an adapter plug with a sensor that is plugged in between the appliance (TV, monitor, TV box) and the socket. Another variant is a power bar with a switch that can completely disconnect the plugged-in devices from the power supply. Don’t forget to completely switch off and unplug all electronic devices before you go on holiday [2].

Savings potential with standby

6 to 14 percent of the total electricity consumption of a household is caused by standby [3]. This can vary from household to household. By consistently avoiding standby with the measures suggested above, an average household can save between 300 and 600 kWh per year, which is equivalent to about 100 Swiss francs depending on energy prices [4].

Sources

[1]         BKW, “Energie sparen”, Accessed: Sep. 20, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://www.bkw.ch/de/energie/stromversorgung-privat-und-gewerbekunden/energie-sparen

[2]         F.-O. Grün, “Wann eine Funk-Steckdose Energie spart – Und wann nicht.” https://www.digitalzimmer.de/artikel/wissen/wann-eine-funksteckdose-energie-spart-und-wann-nicht/ (accessed Sep. 20, 2022).

[3]         N. Boogen, “Schweizer Haushalte könnten Strom sparen”, Accessed: Sep. 20, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://ethz.ch/de/news-und-veranstaltungen/eth-news/news/2017/05/schweizer-haushalte-koennten-strom-sparen.html

[4]         BKW, “Energie sparen”.

Understanding the «Social» of Social Power Plus

The Social Power Plus app is still in use, however the main intensive phase of energy savings is over. We have analysed the data from this intensive phase to understand more about the “Social” aspect of the project, in particular:

  • Who is using the app?
  • How were people interacting with each other on the app’s pinboard?

The app has been designed to help people learn from the tips and challenges in the app, but also to learn from each other through the pinboard. But who are these people?

220 people originally joined the app (75% men, average age of 51 years old), with about 100 people regularly using the app.

App openings over the intensive use phase of the app.

Age range of participants from 28 to 83!

And how have these people used the app to connect to each other? We analysed the use of the pinboard: it was used actively by about 10% of the users by mostly asking and answering questions. While this is not a lot of exchange, participants also mentioned that they passively read other people’s pinboard posts but did not want to add anything themselves.

Interaction intensity between different app users

So, as is typical in such a multi-faceted app, there were people who were more “social” and others that were more interested in their energy consumption data or the energy savings tips. We are pleased to see that all the different app features were found to be useful and will continue to work on improving a collective impact through a lot of people making their own individual impact. When we add it all together, we can create “social power”.

Curious about solar power? “Do it! We need more PV.”

Have you thought about installing PV panels on your roof? Now that you have been observing your electricity consumption in the Social Power Plus app, you might start to consider how you can use sunlight to source your daytime electricity use (or even night time, with a battery!).

We have curated some useful resources to get you started and to avoid the common hurdles of information overwhelm.

Here are the first things you want to consider:

  • What does the overall process look like? Check out Energieschweiz for an overview and cost-benefit analysis: https://www.energieschweiz.ch/gebaeude/solaranlagen/
  • Calculate the potential of your roof: https://www.uvek-gis.admin.ch/BFE/sonnendach/
  • Consider future features so you can plan for them later such as: battery, heatpump, or an electric vehicle. They don’t have to be part of the current installation, but considering them now makes it easier to adapt the system to integrate them later.

Curious to go further? Contact a Swiss solar cooperative to get an offer. They work in all regions, have very attractive pricing, you can get directly involved in the planning, installation and knowledge sharing, and their network supports multiple aspects of the project including technical, financial and social. Of course, your local utility also offers support.

Once you get several offers, you can send them to Energieschweiz and they will assess them for you and provide feedback on the technical and financial differences.

Personal experiences

Of course, the installation of a PV system is different for every house and every customer. Nevertheless, it is exciting to hear how other households have experienced this process and what practical tips they have. Here you can find a report about a PV system after one year of operation.

Talking to someone who has recently completed the process in his multi-family building, he mentioned how surprised he was “by how cheap PV has become. It really makes a lot of financial sense with a return on investment under 10 years, since we are using so much of what we produce ourselves.”

The price of the electricity for his solar system, including insurance, smart meter installation and PV installation was less than half of the utility provided electricity. Further he had a great experience working with a solar cooperative as “we could become directly involved in learning how to install a PV, even get a certificate for this skill and helped out on other installation as part of the network of the cooperative.” However, he offers a hint for those interested “start planning early, as due to supply chain shortages, covid, etc., it can take up to a year to get the project completed”. But he encourages us to “Do it! We need more PV.

The energy experts of your region

Every now and then we receive questions on various energy topics, such as PV systems, renovations, etc.. The professionals at the energy offices will be happy to give you personal advice. Here you can find all the contact details for the three regions:

Winterthur

Stadtwerk Winterthur Energy Consulting: https://stadtwerk.winterthur.ch/privatkundschaft/angebote/energieberatung

Energy consutling Region Winterthur:

https://www.eb-region-winterthur.ch/

Energy companies “energie bewegt winterthur”:

https://www.energie-bewegt-winterthur.ch/fachbetrieb-suchen/bauen-sanieren-finanzieren/energieberatung

Wil

Technische Betriebe Wil:

https://www.tb-wil.ch/dienste/1320

Energy agency St. Gallen:

https://www.energieagentur-sg.ch/beratungsangebot

Energgy agency St. Gallen- Consultant for Wil:

https://www.hev-sg.ch/wir-sind-fuer-sie-da/dienstleistungen/energieberatung/

Schaffhausen

Energy unit  of the Canton of Schaffhausen :

https://sh.ch/CMS/Webseite/Kanton-Schaffhausen/Beh-rde/Verwaltung/Baudepartement/Departementssekretariat-Baudepartement/Energiefachstelle/Beratung-1566131-DE.html

Phase 1 complete! Update on the first three months of Social Power Plus

From February – May 2022, around 200 energy-saving foxes (aka. Residents from Winterthur, and the regions of Wil and Schaffhausen) took an intensive look at their energy consumption at home. We all learned a lot: the participants about their energy consumption, and the project team about how the app can be further improved.

In the three regional energy-saving competitions, each of which lasted a week, we were able to crown the Wil region the winner, all three times! The race was extremely close each time, and during the week first place was often changing between regions.  With savings in the ranging between 15% and 33%, a lot of energy was saved – always measured against the previous month’s weekly average.  Overall, savings were impacted by seasonal effects, since with rising temperatures from January to April, less heating energy is consumed.

During the three months of Phase 1, the research team was in intensive exchange with the participants:by email, via the pinboard in the app, or at the three online meetings that were held during this time. On the one hand, individual energy consumption patterns were discussed and temporary malfunctions were reported and dealt with via these various channels, and on the other hand, a great deal of valuable feedback and suggestions for improvements to the app were received. At the third meeting, for example, we learned that the savings comparison with other households was most popular.

In the app, the participants have the opportunity to exchange information and ask questions on a thematically structured pinboard. This was actively used, and experiences and tips on activities and technologies were shared, as well as questions from others were answered. From initial feedback we have learned that this kind of exchange among like-minded people is very valuable and motivating.

At the end of this first phase, participants will receive a second online questionnaire, where we will investigate their changes in energy knowledge and behaviour, as well as gather feedback on the app.

In the next phase until the end of 2022, participants will still be able to use the Social Power Plus app, with their energy consumption still being updated and displayed daily. The energy saving tips, the challenges and the pinboard will also remain. However, there will be no more regional energy saving competitions and no new challenges.

We wish the participants an enjoyable summer and keep an eye on how your energy consumption changes with the seasons!

An overview of the first month with “Energiesparfüchse”

On Feb 1, the new Social Power Plus app was launched for use by the registered household participants in the regions of Schaffhausen, Winterthur and Wil. The app is connected to the household’s electricity or gas smart meter thus participants can see their energy consumption on an hourly basis. A big jump from the usual quarterly or yearly energy readings! The app has been developed by research teams at SUPSI and ZHAW, as well as supported with data processing by CLEMAP, and all in cooperation with the regional energy utilities: EKS, Stadtwerk Winterthur, and Technische Betriebe Wil.

However, the goal of the project is to encourage energy savings, and multiple research studies have shown that providing data alone will not help reach this goal. Thus, through a co-creation design process with household participants in 2021, the research team additionally implemented further features to support behaviour change for energy savings. Beyond the daily and weekly energy consumption and savings information, the participants can take part in challenges to save energy, get tips for saving energy in different areas of their home, and share personal experiences and suggestions in the app on thematic pinboards.

On the evening of Feb 1, the research and data team held a short introduction session online to get to know each other a little better, finding out why people wanted to participate, and explaining the app. Motivations were very different: from the interest in how to save energy to the desire to contribute to research activities.  The variety in responses is very positive and appreciated, as we hoped to attract a diverse group of participants.

Now, almost a month later, we are seeing how this diversity is playing out in the app use. We have received feedback by email, telephone and within the app’s pinboards about where misunderstandings are occurring and what additional features would be welcomed. We have listened to these requests and have actively been answering any questions. As well, the app development team has implemented several new features: a year-to-date view of the weekly energy consumption, a total energy curve in addition to the break-down of consumption by heating and other appliances, and the consumption baseline (used to calculate energy savings) will be reset every month to adjust for seasonal changes in energy use.

Additionally, the thematic pinboards have been buzzing with questions and answers between participants about energy saving devices at home, tips & tricks for behavioural changes, and enquiries about the optimal settings of the heating and other appliances. The community, of almost 200 people using the app, has definitely proven to be a network and resource to itself.

For the coming two months, March and April, there will be new challenges in different thematic areas released in the app, like how to save energy when cooking, cleaning or working from home. And at the end of each month, a regional energy challenge will compare the saving prowess of each of the regions.

The image represents the participants’ answers according to how often they look at the app (asked at the second online meeting held on 22.2.22).

Almost a month with the Energiesparfüchse!

It has been almost a month since the Social Power Plus app was launched, and the households from the regions of Schaffhausen, Winterthur and Wil have been saving energy. The app and data teams have been busy in the background answering questions and fixing bugs, and the participants have been readily supplying inputs and new ideas.

On Feb 22, we held an online networking event to explain some of the latest developments of the last month and give some time for participants to get to know each other. Over 90 people joined, and we collected even more useful inputs.

We asked them what they found most interesting in the app, and the strong favourite was the hourly energy consumption, separated into heating and other uses, provided for the day before, the last week, and summarised in an ongoing weekly total chart.

Here we go! 230 households are Energiesparfüchse!

On Feb 1, we launched the new Social Power Plus app for the registered participants in the regions of Schaffhausen, Winterthur and Wil. The app can be used to monitor the daily and weekly energy consumption, take part in challenges to save energy, get tips for saving energy in different parts of your home, and share personal experiences and suggestions between participants.

On the evening of Feb 1, we held a short introduction session to get to know each other a little better, finding our why people wanted to participate, and explaining the app.

We look forward to see how people get to know the app and their energy consumption.

The energy saving competition is about to start!

It has been a while since the participating households signed up for the project “Social Power Plus: We are the energy saving foxes” in autumn.
In the meantime, the energy meters have been installed at EKS customers’ homes. We have also finished the app and created the necessary technical configurations so that the app will display the correct data for each household. In fact, the Social Power Plus energy-saving competition will soon get underway!
At the end of January, participants will receive the first online survey via email and at the beginning of February, households will be able to download the Social Power Plus app and monitor their energy consumption in various displays. Households can set their own savings targets, take part in energy-saving challenges, read and write their own energy tips and compete to win the regional energy-saving competition.