Labs

Life Electric

A photo of The Life Electric sculpture by Daniel Libeskind

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is Head of Bulb Labs and concentrates on new product and partnership development. She shares some of our thinking about the future of energy for you and your family.

Home

We’ve never used so much energy in our homes. Over the last 100 years the UK has become less industrial. And products for entertainment and computing have become more mainstream. These two factors combined means households are now the second largest consumer of energy in the UK, behind transport, which tops the list.

We’re even using more energy when we’re out of the house. Anything with a ‘standby’ or ‘always on’ mode (whether that’s through the digital clock on your microwave or the smart speaker in your Alexa) is making us waste an awful lot of energy. For example, a smart TV on standby uses 10 times more energy than an old TV because it remains connected to the internet.

According to my favourite piece of research (conducted by Intertek across 251 UK households back in 2010) a home’s energy is mostly used by heating, plasma televisions, lighting and accessories to the television (game consoles, hi-fi systems, set top boxes) in that order. The things that we might think of as wasteful (for example, dishwashers or tumble driers) come after.

How much we use, and waste, also depends on our family’s lifestyle and size. But it’s not a simple equation of the bigger the family the higher the usage. Again according to Intertek’s research, a family with young children has less time to separate white clothes from dark, so uses their washing machine less than a single household. Time constraints end up making for less energy waste.

We’re also all slowly upgrading our appliances from 1970s versions to more efficient ones designed in the last 10 years. An energy label has been compulsory since 2011, and is now clearly visible as you shop for your next fridge, freezer or washing machine.

It’s sad that the most efficient appliances are often the most expensive. Doing 'the green thing' should really be accessible to everyone. In the 1920s, leasing schemes existed for people to switch to electric outlets and appliances. The same kind of scheme could easily come back today, to encourage people to switch to greener appliances. No matter how often you use an appliance, just the fact that it’s more energy efficient will save money on your energy bills.

In the city

With the increase in the number of people owning electric cars in the UK, making a choice about what powers your home and your family’s mode of transportation isn’t a simple decision anymore.

You might be a Bulb member, but your workplace probably isn’t. Your electric car or e-bike might be powered by a mix of renewable and non-renewable energy depending on where you charge it.

Beyond some of the initial challenges of installing a charger in your home, driveway or garage, many solutions are emerging to suggest you might not be charging at home – but instead, while you do your weekly shop, catch up with a friend for coffee or spend the day in the office. Since most of us spend a third of our day at work, it seems reasonable to imagine you might never charge your car at home but perhaps contribute to a work-related scheme.

And of course there’s weekends away. We want to see a world where every electric vehicle (EV) charger in the city, no matter who installed it, knows that you’re a Bulb member and charges you the same price as you’d pay at home. Owning an electric vehicle can, in some cases, double your energy bills and that’s going to have a huge impact on whether you invest in an electric car or not. We want to see a world where charging your car at home is easy and affordable.

We’re starting to do some work around these areas to develop ideas you’ll be able to try out during 2019. If you'd like to be a future beta tester, let us know.


(Photo credit, The Life Electric by Daniel Libeskind, from Wikipedia)