The “Digital Environment Home Energy Management System” (DEHEMS) is an energy management system helping private consumers reduce their energy use. This three-year energy efficiency project ended in 2011 and was supported by the EU under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), a grant funding programme.. The initiative was based on a network of 14 partners within local authorities, private business and universities in Austria, Romania, Belgium, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.
Through interviewing British and Bulgarian home-owners the project partners identified basic needs for monitoring energy consumption, energy awareness and filling gaps in information. The interview outcomes provided the starting-point for the development of a hardware- and software-based
data analysing and capture system for measuring, displaying and managing the householder’s use of electricity and gas.
The project concept was implemented through a sensor actuator network (SANET) system that included an instrument for real-time measurement of the actual energy consumption as well as a web browser based user interface. The energy measurement system is based on a small device attached to the home’s electricity meter from which data is collected every 6 seconds via an
in-home hub device which communicates back to a central server via a broadband connection. Other meters were placed between the household’s electrical appliances and their plugs.
The householder benefits from real-time updates of their energy use through individually selected parameters presented on an online dashboard. A wireless connection links all sensors into a miniaturised and wireless sensing network, enabling every household to compare their electricity consumption patterns with neighbouring users in the same category. Measurement of gas consumption is slightly different from the electricity and uses mobile technology as a basis for communication. The gas flow is measured trough an optical sensor which is necessary since it cannot interfere with the gas flow.
The combination of a consumption measuring network and a real-time software tool gives an extra dimension to the regular energy consumption mapping. The system is actually an energy performance model taking in how the energy is used in applications as well as heat loss.
This built environment assessing and monitoring system is also identifying possible energy-related improvements in the home and is thereby able to give recommendations for energy efficiency measures.
The project is characterized by consumer-close and reality-based research and development. Within the project, innovation platforms called Living Labs were set up in five different British and Bulgarian cities. The Living Labs serve as meeting points for consumers, researchers and other market players with an interest in the early stage of the innovation process. One example of a product originating in the Living Labs is a pilot model for emissions trading at a local scale.
The energy management system has already been commercialized, indicating that the Technology Readiness Level is a 9 on the TRL scale. The concept brought forward by the project is now subject to further development in new areas. One example is the branded retail service Energy Hive that was established as a direct result of the project work. The underlying software system has also been implemented within one of the world’s first smart grid roll-outs in Australia. Looking ahead, an improved system could be used as an automatised and remote sensing device, giving the householder the possibility to make changes in the domestic energy system through a mobile or computer. Other applications might be outside the energy field and could for instance be used by retailers as a modelling device for consumer behaviour.