Birmingham City Council has backed a project that saw homes across the city implementing smart meters.

The European project, designed to monitor and change the behaviour of households when it comes to their energy usage, was backed by Birmingham City Council's Digital Birmingham initiative and the Family Housing Association.

Many of the homes cut their electricity bills by 60 percent saving through the use of the devices, it said. Over a twelve week period, the homes taking part in the trial saved over 10 tonnes of CO2, with some households saving around £35 per month in electricity costs.

DEHEMS smart meters - Digital Environment Home Energy Management System meters - were installed in 49 homes in the city. The meters are linked to the mains electricity board to monitor usage overall, with some homes having socket monitors which can measure the usage of individual appliances.

Electricity usage can be monitored via an online dashboard on a PC, showing householders how much electricity they use and when they use it. They can then adjust their behaviour and habits to save energy.

The Birmingham project, which covers homes in the Lozells, Handsworth and Edgbaston areas, is part of a wider European DEHEMS initiative which is working with homes in Manchester and Bristol as well as in Bulgaria.

After monitoring their results for just one week, the average household in the Birmingham trial cut their energy usage by 8 percent.

Research at the end of the 12 week trial showed that the number of people always turning off their lights when they leave a room, unplugging chargers from the mains, never leaving appliances on standby, and boiling just enough water for one person when they use a kettle had, on average, doubled over the period.

Heike Schuster-James, Digital Birmingham programme and business manager, said, "The interesting thing is people's understanding that being greener and more environmentally responsible doesn't just help save the planet, it can save money for the individual as well.

"The average household saved over 46kwh of electricity over the 12 week trial, which equates to 229kg of CO2, with very little change in lifestyle."
The DEHEMS project will now see smart gas meters being installed to enable residents to monitor their gas consumption for the first time.

Last November, it was reported that British Gas had rolled out 200,000 smart meters across the UK. The continuing British Gas smart meter rollout, with devices installed in homes and businesses, is aimed at showing users their energy usage in real time, as well as enabling them to run heavy-energy devices at cheaper times.