Re-fusing to be self-reliant

A fuse box that can ‘learn’ to manage a domestic electricity supply efficiently could help to slash fuel bills by 20 per cent, its UK developers claim.

As part of their research into renewable energy technologies, engineers at Southampton University have designed a fuse box that can respond to its environment and predict domestic power requirements.

The system employs a network of wireless sensors, which are installed in the building to monitor energy usage. Once enough data is gathered, the unit uses evolutionary algorithms, allowing it to respond to circumstances and work out the most economical way of using the available energy.

For example, the fuse box would be able to switch to an emergency supply to run essential appliances such as fridges and telephones in the event of a blackout.

The box is designed to fit alongside existing domestic wiring and can be configured by the user to suit their individual needs.

Southampton unveiled details of the technology following a government consultation paper on micro-generation of power in business and domestic premises.

The project’s leader, Dr Peter Wilson, said: ‘We have set out to keep this initiative as simple as possible so that it is accessible to the end-user. Ordinary people don’t want to get involved in huge micro-grids; they just want to be self-sufficient and have a reliable supply. This is technology that is intended to be used by average domestic electricity customers.’

A prototype of the system is currently undergoing tests at the university’s research laboratory. The project team will analyse the fuse box’s performance and calculate the potential energy savings that the unit could provide over the next year.

It said early results suggest a 20 per cent reduction in daily consumption is possible.

Solar panels and a wind turbine, which are due to be fitted on the research site, will generate the energy for the tests.

The project is being carried out by the university’s electronic systems design group, part of the electronics and computer science department.