Cost conscious Brits turn to smart tech to reduce energy use and tackle climate change

  • Smart plugs, voice-activated devices and smart meters introduced by households to reduce energy use and tackle climate change
  • BT’s Smarter Living Challenge found that households could save £938 and up to 1.7 tonnes of CO2e per year by taking small, sustainable living actions*
  • Families share their tips on using tech to cut energy use

London, 21 June 2022: Households who make small but sustainable lifestyle changes around the home point to smart tech as the key driver of reducing emissions and energy usage, according to recent findings from BT Group.

The new findings have been released a year on from BT’s Smarter Living Challenge, which saw the company team up with environmental charity Hubbub, with the aim of exploring how the sustainable actions introduced during the challenge have impacted homes in the last 12 months. 

To reduce energy consumption and tackle the climate crisis, BT Group found that many households have introduced smart technology, such as smart plugs, voice-activated devices, and smart meters, giving them more control over their energy consumption. Almost half (45%) also said technology that monitors or tracks energy makes it easier to see the difference they can make.

Participating households commented: 

Lisa, from Wales: “We’re facing a financial crisis and people are choosing between eating and heating at the moment. Small tweaks, like using a smart meter can help you save money and be more aware [of your energy use]. I panicked when my energy usage shot up, but this motivated me to pay attention to my smart meter and after two weeks it went back to normal.”

"I've started using a voice-activated device more because you can tune it in with other [devices]. It reminds us of things - to turn things off etc, which I wasn't doing. We've [bought] a few smart light appliances… and we can tell the device [to] turn them off." 

Rebecca, from Glasgow: “I love smart tech - it really helps me [reduce my energy consumption]. I used to leave plugs on because they were really difficult to access - behind bookshelves or behind beds - so I'd just leave them on all the time. Now I can turn them off with my phone."

Tristram, from London: "I have a smart speaker installed in four rooms, which means I can control different devices by voice to make life easier. I have switches set up on devices like the TV that have a standby function - the switch kills power completely so the TV doesn't sit in standby." 

BT Group found that almost two thirds (62%) of the households have since reintroduced one or more of the sustainable living actions they tried during the original Smarter Living Challenge, due to the rising cost of living. The same percentage of households (62%) also said that the changes they made during and since the challenge have helped them feel more in control of their household's energy consumption during the current cost of living crisis. A third (31%) of the Smarter Living Challenge revisited households said that their energy bills had not risen as much as they might have done, as a result of the actions they have implemented. 

In 2021, The Smarter Living Challenge found that an average household in the UK could save £938 on their bills and up to 1.7 tonnes of CO2e per year by adopting seven high-impact actions. These actions include turning devices from 'standby' to 'off’ and turning the thermostat down by one degree. This would help to support the carbon reduction required of households in line with the UK Government's commitment for the country to become net-zero on carbon emissions by 2050.

The Smarter Living Challenge households' top energy-saving tips:

  1. Monitor and understand your energy use at different times of the day and week. You can make smarter decisions if you know exactly how energy is used in your household.
  2. Start simple when it comes to smart tech. Try buying one smart plug to start with that you can control through an app and develop your confidence from there.
  3. Install a smart meter. Installation is free, and the technology will give a much clearer view of your household's energy use.
  4. Use voice-activated tech that can help you by turning off all your devices when you leave the house. 
  5. Be open-minded. There are lots of small changes that can make a difference to your household - if one doesn't work for you, try another.

Gabrielle Ginér, Head of Environmental Sustainability at BT Group, commented: "Since we launched our Smarter Living Challenge, reducing energy use is now high on the agenda for many people. Having revisited the participants this year, it's clear that some of the sustainable actions taken on from the original challenge are helping households make a difference on this topic.

"It's great to see how many participants see the value technology can bring when tracking their energy use, particularly given its impact on household bill rises. Whether or not they have access to smart technology, there are many ways in which households can be more energy efficient. Helping households make more sustainable choices forms part of our plans to help customers avoid 60 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030." 

BT Group has led on climate action for 30 years and plans to be net zero by 2030 for its operational emissions and 2040 for its supply chain and customer emissions. The target is part of BT Group's mission to build a bright, sustainable future through technology which is responsible, inclusive, and sustainable. 

For more information on tips and tricks to help reduce emissions in the home, click here.

Technology solutions that can help control energy use include: 

  • Smart meters: Self-reading gas and electricity meters that show how much energy you're using in pounds and pence. They have no upfront or installation cost. If your home is eligible, you can request one from your energy supplier or wait for the rollout to reach you. Speak to your energy supplier for more information. 
  • Smart plugs: At their most basic, smart plugs allow you to turn your devices on and off from your smartphone but you can also set up timers and some can show much energy individual devices are using. Prices often start from around £12, sold by various retailers including Currys PC World and Amazon.
  • Smart thermostats: Designed to work with your existing boiler, enabling you to control your heating remotely. They can be installed through your energy supplier or independently, but they won’t work with very old boilers. Price typical start from £112 and options include Hive, Google Nest, Honeywell and Tado. 
  • Smart assistant devices: These voice activated devices can link up to your appliances and enable you to control them using your voice from around the home. Prices can start from around £49, and options include Google Nest, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod.
  • Free energy saving apps: apps like Energy Cost Calculator can show you which of your appliances are using the most energy, while Joulebug helps users develop more sustainable habits with features similar to a game. Other app benefits can include optimising heating settings to save money and energy; linking to outside temperature; setting up rules to turn off appliances when you leave the house. Downloadable for free from Apple and Android App Stores.


Notes to editor

*Methodology: https://www.hubbub.org.uk/bt-smarter-living-challenge 

About the Smarter Living Challenge 

The Smarter Living Challenge took place between December 2020 and February 2021, inviting 61 households to trial different tech and non-tech approaches to living more sustainably at home. The households broadly reflected the UK population in terms of demographics, living circumstances, location, and attitudes to sustainability, as well as technology. Just under half, 30, of the households were BT colleagues and 31 were from the general public, the majority BT customers. Full details of the study can be found in the report here

BT’s purpose

BT’s purpose is to connect for good, and we recognise that we will only succeed if we create products and services that directly address the challenges faced by the communities and customers we serve. BT has a long-standing history of being a responsible business. As well as providing essential communications services, we have led on climate action for almost three decades and supported people with their digital skills, most recently through BT Skills for Tomorrow.

In December 2021 BT Group launched its new Manifesto, BT’s agenda for growth. It outlines our ambitious goals for change: our net zero carbon and circular economy pathways; our targets to help build our customers digital skills; our ambition to energise a more diverse digital talent movement. It also includes requirements for bold policy changes to enable this journey.

The BT Group Manifesto incorporates BT’s core beliefs and is split into three beliefs – to act more responsibly, create a more inclusive society and be more sustainable. By forming the Manifesto, BT is creating a movement to inspire businesses to commit to doing better; enabling the nation to take action on responsible technology, climate change and improving their digital skills.

Find out more about our beliefs here

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