/ Home & Energy, Sustainability

Would a :-) or :-( convince you to save energy?

Smiley face on box

Even when the weather’s hotting up, you can’t keep energy costs out of the news. The latest development is a study of 540 homes which found a smiley face can help people save energy. Confused? Let me fill you in.

It’s not actually as daft as it sounds. In the study by Sustainable Homes, the properties were split into three groups:

• The first group was given information on their energy use compared to other random homes.
• The second group was given information about energy use in similar homes.
• And the third and most interesting group was provided with feedback on their energy use in the form of smiley (or frowny) faces.

Smileys top the table

Lo and behold, the group of houses in the ‘smiley’ group achieved higher levels of savings on their energy bills than any other group.

The study found that information of any kind aided people in cutting their bills, but information in the form of happy or sad faces seemed to have the biggest impact. If 75% of UK households were able to achieve similar savings it would apparently be the equivalent of switching off a power station for six months.

It might seem overly simplistic, but maybe there’s something in this. It’s perfectly logical to assume that when presented with information about how similar households use energy, people might change their behaviour.

Simple energy bills

The key though is how the information is presented. We know that energy bills are often overly complex, cumbersome documents that don’t lend themselves to easily digestible information (notwithstanding recent improvements on that front). What’s wrong with a smiley face to tell you you’re doing well and a frowny face if you’re using more than you could?

Of course, the whole issue of using less energy and cutting the cost of your bill isn’t going to be solved at a stroke by initiatives like this. As our Fix the Big Six campaign has demonstrated, there’s plenty wrong with the energy market aside from the provision of information on bills, but doesn’t every little help?

What do you think? Would a 🙂 or 🙁 face on your bill help you cut your energy use?

Could a smiley face convince you to save energy?

No 🙁 (82%, 562 Votes)

Yes 🙂 (11%, 79 Votes)

Don't know 😐 (7%, 49 Votes)

Total Voters: 689

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I’d be interested to know just how other people are “aided” in cutting their energy bills. Advice on setting your central heating timer – or installing a more versatile controller – would seem an obvious one. Turning your thermostat down may be less than comfortable, but turning down, or off, radiator thermostats in little-used rooms is another.
More difficult is electricity – generally in our household this is dictated by the amount of washing and drying (if the weather is wet) but so much usage is pretty well predetermimed – cooking, dishwasher, kettle, fridge-freezer, tv and lights (low-energy!).
I would have thought comparisons based on lifestyle (whether you are you home all day, elderly, cook a lot, like baths) and family size and ages (kids make a lot of washing) are, perhaps, more important than house similarities.
How, and by how much, have others cut their energy usage without suffering?

Kathryn says:
26 June 2014

A smiley is a fun and simple way of showing how your usage compares to the country’s average household usage. If you are an “average household” and you get a 🙁 then it might make you think! Make sure there is a definition of what the “average household” is though, somewhere in the small print.

Or even better, if your energy company knows your house size, number of adults and kids etc, maybe it could use a smiley system to compare you with other customers of similar households, not the “average household”.

Actually Kathryn there is in reality no such thing as “the average household. I’m an energy assessor and get to see lots of houses and I can assure you the actual house varies as much as the way occupants use energy.
Of course there is always scope to improve energy efficiency but you’ll need a bit more than a smiley face on you monitor to do it (even if you have a monitor).
Mostly of course it’s common sense, insulation, good heating control and sensible heating patterns. The first step is to look at how you use energy now and cut out the waste without compromising comfort. Do this simple thing and everyone can save significant amounts.
Bit of thought not a smiley face, that’s what’s needed, and just you see how you can sensibly save money.

So now even the energy companies want to treat us like kindergarten children?
Frankly, I find it not only condescending but also an insult to my intelligence!

Rainbow, This was a study by “Sustainable Homes” according to the intro who, as far as I gather from the web: “Sustainable Homes is the leading sustainability consultancy and training provider
We work with affordable housing providers, private developers and government to reduce fuel poverty and improve sustainability”.
Condescending Consultant, not energy company, it seems!

I think this emoticon would be suitable to express your opinion Rainbow: ಠ_ಠ (the look of disapproval)

Walter says:
27 June 2014

For goodness sake grow up!

I have no wish to be patronised with this kind of childish nonsense.

Walter – I have family who live in a small village. At the start of the speed control zone there is a sign that shows the speed of an approaching vehicle and either a 🙂 or 🙁 depending on whether or not the speed is below or above the limit. Their kids reprimand their parents if they are going too fast. Even when the kids are not in the car their parents pay attention to the sign, and so do I.

So if ‘childish nonsense’ is unacceptable to you, what do you think would encourage you to save energy?

wavechange, we have more grown-up SIDs in our area – they flash, warning what the speed limit is, if you are approaching too quickly. I find them very effective as a warning.

OK, but I see considerable potential for children to educate the grown-ups.

Walter, I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

Sorry but the information would be great, but smilies? I put them in the same infantile class as selfies.

Our energy consumption has plummeted since we had PV panels installed. We completely changed the way we run our home. Instead of running the dishwasher and washing machine at night on Economy 7, we now wait until after breakfast and the sun is doing its work before we fire up anything power hungry.

We have an iBoost energy diverter that automatically sends all excess generated power to the immersion heater and I turned up the wick on the temperature to (effectively) increase the capacity. We now have piping hot water all day.

Our energy consumption has fallen to an average 1.6 day units and 2.3 night units each day.

Now if Sustainable Homes could show me how to slash my gas heating costs, they’d be welcome to put a smiley on my front door!