Lincoln researchers use PC widgets to advise on energy consumption

Researchers at the University of Lincoln are currently producing a new way of making people aware of their energy consumption. Electro-magnets aims to teach people how much energy they use by using technology such as games consoles and computers. They then record how much energy was consumed to use the tech, and give groups and individuals advice on how they can save energy.

The team will deliver desktop applications called widgets to workplace computers of employees of the University, Lincolnshire County Council and to students taking part. The widgets will be inspired by interactive applications that can be delivered by online social network technologies such as Facebook.

The project is being led by Dr Shaun Lawson, a reader in the School of Computer Science. He said: “The recent PC Energy Report suggested that around a third of office workers in the UK do not always power off their PC overnight.

“We believe that allowing people to view — in a fun and readily understood fashion — their own energy consumption as well as that of peers, colleagues and other members of their social network or community, can have a direct influence on subsequent behaviour.

“There is still much to gain by exploring new ways of persuading people to adopt positive energy usage behaviour. This project will design, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of a suite of social software applications – including simple social games – to encourage positive changes in group and individual energy consumption behaviour on campus and in the local community.

“There is still much to gain by exploring new ways of persuading people to adopt positive energy usage behaviour. This project will design, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of a suite of social software applications – including simple social games – to encourage positive changes in group and individual energy consumption behaviour on campus and in the local community.”

How to save energy at home

Turn off your computer after use
A report has suggested that if the 17 million workers in the UK who regularly use a desktop PC turned it off at night, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 1.3 million tonnes. That’s the equivalent of removing 245,000 cars from the road. So make sure you turn your computer off when it’s not in use, as well as any other appliances around the house.

Don’t over-boil water
If you are making a cup of tea or coffee, only use as much water as you need. If you are making a drink for yourself, there is no need to fill up the kettle to the maximum point, for example.

Check your taps
A dripping hot water tap over a week wastes enough energy to fill half a bath, so check your taps are full turned off and mend leaking ones.

Use energy-saving lightbulbs
Energy saving lightbulbs are good for the environment because they last up to 10 times longer than an ordinary bulb, and can save you around £45 over the bulb’s lifetime. This could be £70 if you are replacing a bulb that’s used for more than a few hours a day. Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

Lower the thermostat
The chances are your cylinder thermostat is too high, so your water is too hot — it should be at 60°C/140°F.

Wash a full load
If you don’t have enough washing for a full load, wait until you do. A full load saves more energy than two half-loads. Also, consider washing at 30°C — a large amount of clothes can be safely washed at this degree.

Sources: University of Lincoln, Energy Trust | Photo: Vélocia