Arne Van Acker Smappee

Curious for how our Smappee-users get the most out of their Smappee in their own unique, everyday life, we asked some particular users to share their experiences with us. Third in line is the Belgian industrial engineering and IT student, Arne Van Acker, who uses the insights of Smappees itemized bill to make some serious investments.

Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I'm an industrial engineering and IT student with a passion for renewable energy. Alongside my studies, I am also learning more about the various energy systems and microgrids on my own initiative. In June 2016, I installed a Smappee Solar at home. At the time I was still living with my parents, in a detached house with a few energy guzzlers such as an electric car, swimming pool and heat pump. When I moved out later that year, I ordered a new Smappee so I could install it in the new house of my own. I have now even ordered a third one, this time for my parents-in-law. As the Smappee in my parents' house has been active the longest, the data from this Smappee is also the most accurate. 

What made you buy the first Smappee monitor?
Even though there had been solar panels on the roof for some time, the electricity bill was still unusually high. To find out what was using so much energy, I started looking for simple systems which could measure the consumption. As it detects individual appliances, the Smappee Energy immediately caught my eye. The Smappee principle is a lot more cost-efficient than a system which requires dozens of separate plug-in meters.

How did Smappee ultimately help you to tackle those energy guzzlers?
The detailed data collected by the Smappee monitor allowed us to calculate the payback period of certain investments in a reliable way:

  1. Thanks to Smappee’s appliance detection, we discovered that hot water for the bathroom cost around €500 per year and that this was relatively independent of how much water was being used. Even when nobody was home, the system was still consuming around 5KWh per day. This meant that the old (overlooked) electric boiler had to go.
  2. The Smappee Gas & Water also allowed us to detect irregularities with the water softener, so we replaced that as well.
  3. We also discovered that the heating circuit could be made much more efficient and cheaper through the addition of a solar boiler. This would allow us to make the best possible use of our solar energy, as we could then convert the excess electricity into heat.

How did the investments subsequently affect the energy bill?
Without the Smappee, it would have been practically impossible to determine the return on these investments. We currently expect the invoice for the coming year (the period from June 2017 to June 2018) to be negative and for the energy consumption to drop by over 50%. Of course, these are estimates. We still need to wait for the installation of the solar boiler and further developments to determine the estimated savings more accurately.

Do you use the Comfort Plugs too?
Yes, the Comfort Plugs are a simple way of activating and deactivating the energy guzzlers depending on the solar production. I switch off appliances when little solar energy is being produced. At times when a lot of solar energy is being generated, I send the surplus to appliances which use a lot of energy. This even allowed me to make more efficient use of my Tesla Powerwall and obtain a higher return on this investment. I am currently writing a simple program which uses the Smappee measurement data to modify the charging speed of the electric car. All these things help to reduce the energy bill and achieve a higher level of solar self-consumption: the automatic modification of your consumption in line with the amount of solar energy available.

What do you appreciate most about Smappee, and where do you think there is room for improvement?
The precise, real time measurement data is a gold mine and a handy tool which allows you to reduce your standby consumption, at the lower end of the scale. In addition, it means you can mainly use the energy-guzzling appliances when enough solar energy is available. I'm very happy with how the Smappee works. The appliance detection isn't always perfect as similar kinds of small consumers in particular can cause quite a bit of noise, but relatively regular and/or large consumers are recorded with great precision.

However, I do think I should mention the installation. I would really advise against it for people with little to no electrical knowledge, certainly in 3-phase solar installations. These days I only need around 20-30 minutes per installation, but a control cabinet can be quite daunting for a novice and could even put them off.

Do you have any tips for other Smappee users or new users?
In the beginning, I would advise new users not to look at the data too much: it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. After a week, the Smappee will already have identified quite a few appliances and it will be easier to draw conclusions. After that, however, it's important to consult the app on a regular basis. Changes in your home can sometimes have a surprising impact on your energy consumption.