Introducing Carbon Bot

Hi all, I’m Tom, and I lead our new Labs team at Bulb. We’re exploring new ways of helping our members save money and reduce their carbon emissions, using technologies and approaches we think will become mainstream over the next few years.

I wanted to share the first little project we’ve been working on, and get your feedback! Carbon Bot is a Twitter account to help you use energy at greener times. Follow @bulbcarbonbot to give it a go.

As you know, the amount of renewable energy on the UK grid varies through the day, depending on the weather and how much we’re all using. As it varies, so does the amount of carbon emitted, meaning that some times are greener than others to use electricity.

As a Bulb customer, you’re always buying 100% renewable energy, but we can all help the grid become greener by making smarter decisions about when to use electricity. Carbon Bot is our first go at trying to help people do this.

It use data from the Carbon Intensity API to provide you with information about the greenest time to run things like washing machines and dishwashers, or even when to charge your electric car.

For things where you’re not in a hurry, and you’ve got a timer function, these little adjustments can add up to a lot.

For example, my back of the napkin calculations suggest that if 1000 of us can move just one dishwasher load from a typical 6pm peak to a better time, like 2am, that’s equivalent to a flight from London to Berlin.

We’d love to know what you think, and whether it helps you move any of your electricity use around. All feedback appreciated!

Although I am in favour of all saving energy I do question the safety aspect of this, and I quote…

It warns that running electrical appliances while you are asleep will put your family at greater risk of being trapped by fire. Andy Reynolds, electrical safety expert for the association, says: 'Never leave a tumble dryer, washing machine or dishwasher running when you have gone to bed or have left the house unoccupied.

In fact I do the opposite, I have timers on several electrical items so that they switch off (timers) completely during the night from a safety perspective. Eg My PC/printer/monitor etc switches off at the mains during the night, ensuring there is no stand-by mode, the same for TV and some table lamps.

Savings in energy can easily be made by turning the heating off half hour earlier as there will still be a residual heat in the radiators/room, that’s 182 hours worth of gas equivalent to approx 14 days free heating, or turning lights off when you leave a room.

As someone who has seen and has worked on properties with terrible electrical wiring and a whole load of situations of dubious safety, I would side with @scudo here and not generally recommend that people set high drain consumer devices to operate when they’re not going to be around/are going to be asleep.

A slightly over the top example (but I have seen similar):

Car chargers are generally a slightly different matter as they can often be set by an app and remain plugged into their charger that will likely have been installed by an electrician. Even then, a fuseboard fire is more likely due to higher current draw and due to the insane regs that temporarily allowed plastic consumer units, the fire is often not contained very well…

@“TomT at Bulb”, I love the concept though and the fact that Bulb has a labs team! Perhaps we could have regular updates from you about what you’re working on/thinking of doing?

my back of the napkin calculations suggest that if 1000 of us can move just one dishwasher load from a typical 6pm peak to a better time, like 2am, that’s equivalent to a flight from London to Berlin.
By my quick calculations, if 1000 people washed up by hand, it would be much greener :mrgreen: Perhaps a washing machine is a better example. The embedded carbon of the dishwasher alone is pretty insane for a convenience item.

Thanks both, we’ll look further into the safety aspects of this. In terms of other Labs projects, we’ll be sure to share as much as possible here, and on the blog, as we go.

I like it. I’ve previously checked here for similar data.

I’ve put my faith in my electrical wiring/appliances/fire alarm, so do use the timer on the dishwasher :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks both, we'll look further into the safety aspects of this.
I'd just stick to informing people that your carbon bot's predictions are the greenest times for them to use electricity. If you avoid specifically mentioning timing for when you're asleep/out of the house then you've got yourselves covered. People can then make that decision for themselves.
I've put my faith in my electrical wiring/appliances/fire alarm, so do use the timer on the dishwasher :tongue:
Same here, but I have absolutely no faith in anyone else's unless I've physically checked/installed them myself!
In terms of other Labs projects, we'll be sure to share as much as possible here, and on the blog, as we go.
Sounds good! I've suggested it elsewhere but perhaps we could have this kind of thing split off from the normal blog? I'd love to get more info on the technical inner workings of Bulb (à la Monzo) in a more technical manner than may be approriate for the standard Bulb blog.

Might be an interesting idea to implement a day/week forecast in the Bulb app using the Carbon Intensity API? Kind of like the example they have on the site:

For information:

Faulty household appliances - primarily washing machines and tumble dryers - account for 60 house fires a week in the UK, consumer group Which? has said.

It said the number of fires has stayed roughly the same each year for five years.

It wants the government to draw up a plan to tackle the issue within three months, having set up an Office for Product Safety.