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How smart meters helped a business thrive

The Syrup Room used smart meter technology to control their rising energy bills.

At the start of Recycle Week in October in Birmingham, a giant sculpted QR code appeared outside New Street station. It was made from recycled materials and, when scanned, directed people to information about what could be recycled in their area.

The QR code was the creation of The Syrup Room, a production and art fabrication company based in Bournemouth. “It was definitely a learning curve to see if the technology with the analogue rubbish would work, but it worked perfectly,” said Josh Kay, cofounder of the company.

Josh and his cofounder Jamie White studied graphic design together and decided to set up their own business, naming it the Syrup Room after writing on a cutting that they found in a skip.

Since then, they have worked with global brands to on creative projects that tell a story to their customers, and with artists such as Stuart Semple to connect with their fans. The Syrup Room fabricate and build their projects using new and smart technologies to realise the designs. Go into their workspace in Bournemouth and you will see 3D printers, laser cutters, and an array of devices that can be programmed to produce anything their minds might conjure.

But such creativity requires a lot of electricity. “We are a power-hungry business where we’re using a lot of equipment,” said Kay. The real push to control their energy spending came during the pandemic, when the Syrup Room’s work was disrupted but they still had bills coming in. “We wanted to know where we were and where our money was going,” he said. The Syrup Room decided to get a smart meter – which are available to many businesses with fewer than 10 employees – to help manage those costs.

“It’s meant that we can keep an eye on stuff and make conscious decisions,” Kay said. The company was able to make use of the data they had from the smart meter to make changes to their site and operations.

The duo started to heat parts of their warehouse when they were working there, rather than the whole thing. They even built a smaller, cheaper to heat, office in the warehouse where they can do their design work. With these new practices, along with new tariff, the company’s bill has gone from £1300 a month to £400. “Having a smart meter made a huge difference. It just allowed us to refine that kind of cost that we were we were losing every month,” he said.

The Syrup Room has since started using other smart technologies, too, such as smart plugs.

“We connect all our smart plugs up to our phones. That basically means that when we arrive here, the lights turn on, when we leave the lights turn off, and we can do the same with heating as well,” Josh said. The team now has a smart heater that connects into Apple Homekit and enables the Syrup Room to control the heating while they are away, so they can arrive to a workplace that is at the right temperature for work, and they never need worry about leaving it on overnight.

Inspired by the efficiency of their smart meter, Kay and his co-founder are currently working on a project of their own using smart technology: an automated system that can grow herbs and salad leaves in your kitchen, so the plants get the optimum light, heat and water to grow. All the consumer needs to do is choose what they want to grow. The technology could be deployed at larger scale, Kay explained, such as a traditional garden green house or larger-scale production of any type of plant.

He can also see the potential of flexible, smart meter enabled time-of-use tariffs for his business. These will “be incredible, because we could time when our cars charge and when we use our power-hungry equipment,” Josh explained. The Syrup Room use battery-powered machinery as well as their 3D printers, and these types of tariffs would transform how they use energy.

“If you can know that your batteries are going to be charged through the night at a lower tariff from a greener energy source that’d be amazing,” he said. They are also keen to look at using solar panels to generate their own energy and use that to charge batteries or put back into the grid.

The journey the Syrup Room has taken with smart meters has led to immediate savings on energy bills, but has also inspired them more active and innovative choices about how the business can be greener and more economical.

Looking to the future, Kay is excited to see how new smart tech can support the Syrup Room. “Technology that saves time and saves money is the key, especially with running a business,” he said.

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