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Unlocking the demand response potential from domestic hot water tanks

, P.Coker
, M.Vahdati
, S.Millward
, C.Carey
Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments, University of Reading, UK
School of Construction Management and Engineering, University of Reading, UK
SSE Plc, Reading, UK
* Corresponding author:
In order to maintain a reliable electricity supply the System Operator must continuously
balance supply and demand on a second by second basis. Presently, this is achieved almost
entirely by utilising either part loaded power plant or else by using carbon intensive standby
generators. As the UK increases the amount of renewable energy connected to the grid, it is
likely that more balancing services will be required to maintain a stable electricity supply
system. This article demonstrates how the application of domestic demand response can help
mitigate the reliance on supply driven balancing services and therefore reduce carbon
emissions associated with new intermittent renewable generation.
The described method has the aim of time shifting domestic energy demand from electric
water heating without being disruptive to occupants usual lifestyles or comfort. A number of
dwellings using electric water heating had meters installed to characterise the diversity of
usage. Analysis shows that introducing dynamic immersion switching can provide more
distributed availability to the System Operator, in addition to reducing overall standing heat
losses from the hot water tank compared to how off peak switches are currently operated.
Using a Markov chain occupancy based approach a model is presented that simulates the
aggregated household load from electric water heaters, as well as the stored energy
availability derived from the hot water tanks. Results suggest this form of aggregated demand
response can help integrate renewable energy on the grid without major intervention.
Demand response, energy efficiency, domestic hot water, stochastic modelling
Ageing power stations, concerns over air pollution, the risks associated with climate change,
and the increasing volatility of conventional fuel prices has resulted in the UK drafting a new
energy bill that firmly prioritises energy security and the implementation of low carbon
technologies. Due to the large UK wind resource availability and its cost competitiveness,
wind power has become the most attractive source of low carbon electricity supply. It is
predicted that by the year 2025 there will be 30GW of wind generation capacity on the UK
system, which is equivalent to half of the UKs current peak demand [1]. The continuous
growth of variable embedded generation and wind farms connected to the electricity grid,
presents a new set of challenges for the System Operator to overcome in keeping supply and
demand synchronised. In Great Britain this responsibility lies with the National Grid Plc, who
has already reported constraints on the network as a result of excess wind generation
occurring during low demand periods [2].
Aside from pumped storage, which has a round trip efficiency of 78% there is no other large
scale energy storage on the GB power system, for this reason National Grid must either
procure standby generation or else have access to flexible electrical load [3]. It is estimated
that at the moment between 95% and 98% of the ancillary services National Grid tender to
balance the network, are derived from electricity generation supply [4][5]. In contrast,
Demand Side Response (DSR) describes the time shifting or reduction of demand to balance
the power system via the ancillary services market. DSR requires energy to be converted into
its final form, rather than being stored in an intermediary form as is the case with grid
connected energy storage; hence it has a relatively high efficiency. Crucially, DSR can offset
the use of expensive and carbon intensive balancing services and reduces the requirement for
network reinforcement. The greater complexity associated with the domestic sector has so far
limited the use of DSR in households. Nevertheless the importance of utilising domestic DSR
in a low carbon future is echoed by many organisations, including energy regulator Ofgem
and National Grid [6][7]. There is a consensus that smart meters alongside time of use tariffs
or real time pricing will facilitate domestic DSR; however this is a cause for concern, because
there is no evidence that this approach is effective within the UK. Firstly, only automated
DSR can provide the necessary guarantees at the ancillary service scale, whereas the
deployment of time of use tariffs relying on customer interaction may in fact lead to greater
demand uncertainty. Secondly, the rollout of smart meters will not be completed until 2020 at
the earliest, which does not help domestic DSR provide a potentially vital role in forthcoming
years. This is particularly pertinent as the UK faces a drop in capacity margin to as low as 4%
in 2016, thereby increasing the risk of large scale interruptions to supply [8].
The potential for automated domestic DSR without behaviour change using readily available
technology provides the motivation for this research. In particular this paper investigates the
benefits and suitability of aggregated domestic electric water heating (EWH) in hot water
tanks for providing an ancillary service. To further assist the integration of future grid
connected renewable energy supplies and lessen the risk of curtailment, the feasibility of
providing a load on capability from multiple hot water tanks is also investigated. These
objectives are fulfilled by the development of a novel modelling tool that simulates the
aggregation of immersion heater load and energy storage potential at high resolution.
Presently the only way of utilising domestic DSR resources is through Radio Tele-switching
(RTS) technology that is installed in approximately 2 million households. RTS permits
remote load switching of electric storage heaters and immersion heaters via a long wave radio
data system. Originally developed in the 1980s as a way of providing overnight demand for
inflexible nuclear generation, RTS only offers one way communications, but it can transmit
signals virtually instantaneously. For energy suppliers and the System Operator RTS offered
important advantages over predecessor technologies that were usually in the form of time
clocks attached to the meter. Firstly, there was the ability to lessen the problem of cold load
pick-up and alleviate artificial demand peaks caused by meters simultaneously being switched
on. Secondly, there was no longer the operational issues associated with time drift and clock
changes. Thirdly, there was much greater flexibility and the twin element RTS system
provided a way of separating electric heating load from the rest of the household. There is
also evidence from an Ipsos Mori survey [6] that finds EWH is the most favoured method for
domestic customers to time shift their load. Despite this apparent willingness to engage and
the added capabilities RTS has offered, UK off peak tariffs have remained largely static in
their operation.
The ubiquitous nature of EWH in power systems and their intensive operation and energy
consumption makes them ideal components for direct load control schemes. Indeed the notion
of curtailing and time shifting domestic electric water heating is synonymous with the original
concept of demand side response that surfaced in the 1970s. The majority of previous studies
within this subject have focused attention on either: (i) energy efficiency analysis, (ii) demand
side response strategies and (iii) the associated issues with cold load pick up. Early models,
for example by Galiani et al, sought to physically describe single EWH systems as detailed
interactions between individual components [9]. Whilst this approach added greater
complexity compared to previous empirical based regression models, it was a necessary step
to analyse the effects from individual EWH perturbations. Malhame and Chong made
significant progress in this field by utilising computing power and building a physically based
stochastic model of EWH, thereby improving the load prediction capabilities [1014]. Their
combined extensive body of research characterises individual EWH load as a continuous state
and discrete state, which are set as tank water temperature and a thermostat controlled switch
respectively. Their output that is self described as a Markovian hybrid state model crucially
simulates hot water demand from the tank as a stochastic process with random amplitudes and
random switching times. When considering the aggregation problem, Malhame proposes a
system of coupled partial differential equations to describe the distribution of tank water
temperatures and therefore the fraction of EWH load in the on state. In most cases other
newer EWH models have used Malhame and Chongs stochastic aggregation framework, with
any variations usually centred on how the simulation of hot water usage is determined [15
17]. A key attraction to this aggregation modelling approach is that individual EWH
uncertainties can be characterised by a probability density function, replacing the need to have
detailed models for each household. However, as Paull points out, the ability to fully
characterise and load shift individual EWHs has several advantages, including the ability to
classify users on their hot water usage rather than household load usage as is typically done
[18]. Paull presents a EWH model that creates individual load simulations based on initially
disaggregating the EWH load from a large dataset (sourced from a Canadian smart meter
trial). In this way domestic hot water usage is estimated across households, allowing usage
profiles to be defined and used for creating future EWH load simulations and DSR control
algorithms. The model presented in the next section of this paper uses similar elementary
energy flow analysis as previously discussed models. Akin to Paulls model, empirical data
has been used to generate time series for individual households, however, a new methodology
is presented that creates hot water demand profiles based on an a Markov chain.
Table 1: Summary of main household sources of hot water in the UK [1923]
Heat Source Current

Advantages Disadvantages


5,000 Easy to maintain,
Less space required,
Always hot water
Low running costs
Low flow rates,
Does not offer any storage
opportunity, higher water
Poorer DHW output when
space heating required
Regular boiler
4,840 Option for high flow rates,
Relatively inexpensive
Finite storage,
Maintenance issues,
Space required
Immersion primary
(primary and secondary)

Low capitol cost,
Easily maintained,
Off-peak option
High running costs,
Carbon intensive,
Finite storage

Based on homes using only immersion as the primary heating source, other homes use as secondary heating back up
In order to simplify the modelling process the following assumptions are held:
The water in the hot water tank is perfectly mixed and the energy state changes are set
at discrete 1 minute intervals over a 24 hour period.
Each hot water tank has only one active EWH rated at 3 kW that can heat up all water
in the tank. Further work will incorporate an additional EWH element at the top of the
tank that is usually used to provide smaller hot water volumes quickly.
One single thermostat switches the EWH and the deadband temperature is fixed.
3.1. Thermal Representation
The thermal model of a single EWH is shown in figure 1, where the heat into the system is

; heat is lost in the system through either hot water demand H(t), or by conduction

via the tank wall

. The tanks total thermal capacity is defined as

(kWh/C); where


respectively represent the tank water temperature and

surrounding air temperature. S(t) describes whether

is on or off and is bound by

the following binary condition:

Whilst the thermostat temperature

is dynamic for each household (between 55

to 65
C), the deadband temperature

, which describes the permitted drop in mixed

tank water temperature is fixed at 5
C. Importantly, TW(t) describes the tariff controlled
circuit set as either on or off, which permits the EWH to be energised.

Figure 1: A thermal model of the EWH system (left) and a process diagram describing the EWH
thermostat switch (right)




The information shown in figure 1 can be summarised into the following differential equation
describing each EWH:



In the above equations the tanks surface area is A (m
); vc(t) is the volume of hot water
consumed in litres over the time period t and

is the specific heat capacity of water.

3.2. Model Inputs
The development of each individual EWH load profile to create an aggregate simulation
required the steps shown in figure 2 to be processed in an iterative manner. The first step is
the date selection that defines whether the day is working or non working, as well as what the
cold feed water temperature is to the tank (changes seasonally). Following that a number of
parameters aim to characterise the probability of a certain input variable being chosen at
random. Inherently, each input variable has its own probability function under different
conditions that is chosen based on UK datasets. For example, if a high number of occupants
have been selected, the probability density is skewed towards the tank volume being a larger
size, which forms part of the property parameter. A key element of the model is how the hot
water demand is generated by breaking down individual hot water uses, which are embodied
by varying flow rates, volumes and time of use to match available empirical data. Once this
information is fed in, the energy flow equation (2) calculates

(t) and the control

parameter adds in the thermostat and tariff constraints to generate a load profile.

Figure 2: Overview of household model to determine immersion load profile
3.3 Data Sources
In order to generate reliable output from the model, significant time has been spent sourcing
empirical data that can define the probabilistic nature of the different input variables. Data on
occupants per household has come from the 2011 UK census [24]. The property parameter
Hot water
Initial tank
Tank water
which consists of house type, tank size, insulation type and ambient temperature is defined by
data from the English Housing Survey [25], as well as BRE technical reports[22][27]. The
most complex part to simulate at high resolution is domestic hot water usage, due to its
stochastic nature and the lack of metered data that is available. Nevertheless, due to trials
carried out by the Energy Saving Trust [23][27] there is information on domestic hot water
consumption (albeit from gas boilers only), as well as the flow rates and length of use from
different run off locations in homes. Additionally time of use survey data [28] has been
utilised to simulate when different hot water events occur. Since it is found that hot water
volume and flow rate run off profiles do not follow a normal distribution, lognormal
distributions are favoured in this model, which can account for the higher proportion of small
volume and cooler run off events, as apposed to very hot long run offs that are less common.
The discernible lack of high precision data available on the use of EWH in UK households
meant a field trial that would provide greater insight was deemed necessary. A total of eight
households using EWH to provide domestic hot water were recruited; five of which used RTS
controlled off-peak tariffs. The other households either had their EWH always switched on, or
else manually used a switch to turn on and off power to the top EWH element when they
required it. Onzo current clamps were used to either directly or indirectly (required whole
circuit monitoring and disaggregation) record EWH load, which had the ability to measure
1W demand changes at secondly time intervals. Interestingly, three of the households reported
that because the overnight Economy 7 tariff was not providing them with enough hot water
when they required it they had opted to switch it off or change tariff. Hot water tank
characteristics varied substantially despite the small sample and the average energy
consumption was found to be 8 kWh/day across the households. The results from the trial
appear to confirm that a combination of poor tank insulation as well as RTS activation times,
which are often the inverse of hot water demand times, are leading to occupants enduring
either inefficient and costly energy expenditure or else a lack of hot water when is required.

Figure 2: EWH load profile monitored in situ
By engaging with trial participants it was possible in particular cases to disaggregate energy
consumption into event types. Figure 2 shows a household that operated the EWH 24 hours a
day, hence it was possible to collate information on their time of use and characterise different
hot water events. Moreover, when occupants were vacant from their household, the 24 hour
standing losses from the hot water tank could be determined. It was found that these recorded
losses when compared to the manufacturers declared losses were consistently higher by 30
60%. This finding may be indicative of a wider issue in the housing stock; however, a larger
field trial would be required to verify whether this is the case.




Dishwashing Bath Standing losses
5.1 Verification
The first crucial step after developing the model, was verifying its output with respect to
empirical data. To achieve this, a simulation was run to mimic the EST trial [23] that
monitored domestic hot water consumption across 120 dwellings. The EST reports an
estimated consumption of 122 litres per day with a 95% confidence interval of

18 litres.
Remarkably the model output shown in Table 2 came out with the same result and a 95%
confidence of interval of

10 litres. The simulated mean electricity consumption per day was

slightly less than what was found in our own small field trial reported previously, but did
agree well with other literary sources [19].
Table 2: Data analysis of model output
Elec consumption
Hot water
consumption (l/day)
Standing losses
Max 18.6 290.5 15.7
Min 1.5 2.6 0.4
Mean 6.5 121.7 1.6
Standard dev 2.8 55.9 1.7
Total 781.9 14598.8 189.3
Number of households 120
5.2 Existing Time Of Use Performance
As Economy 7 has the highest proportion (around 70%) of off peak customers in the UK it is
chosen as the primary tariff to model, however, the model been built with the flexibility to
simulate any single or combined tariff arrangement in a given population [29]. Assuming the
use of RTS Economy 7 and no peak EWH load i.e. boost function, the aggregation of 500
households current EWH load is shown in figure 2. The steps that occur between 23:00 and
01:00 are the result of individual RTS meters being assigned different 7 hour block times,
which here is distributed randomly. Due to all the EWH being switched on immediately the
total load is skewed i.e. front charged. The load pick up at 06:00 occurs because of the surge
in hot water demand as people wake up, which overlaps with the end of the 7 hour charge.

Figure 3: Economy 7 EWH load profile of 500 households


5.3 Optimised Time Of Use Performance & Load Off Potential
The term optimised in this context refers to the optimal trade off between energy efficiency
(minimising standing losses), available load to offer the System Operator (flattening demand)
and ensuring occupants have the service they desire (reaching the thermostat temperature).
Figure 4 is an attempt to design an optimised strategy for controlling EWH loads, which is
achieved by delaying i.e. back charging a proportion of RTS meters based on what their
average charge time is historically. It can be seen that the result is a much more distributed
load over the available charge window. This provides the System Operator with greater access
to load over a continuous period and also reduces standing energy losses in tanks. A second
simulation of 500 households aims to show the affect that a 15 minute curtailment event at
05:00 has, which represents a typical ancillary service utilisation. In order to prevent cold load
pick up i.e. artificial demand peaks, logic has been included that randomly distributes over a 5
minute interval when individual EWH come back on after the curtailment event. Furthermore,
since households must be guaranteed a 7 hour charge window an additional 20 minutes is
added to the total block for those being used to provide DSR.

Figure 4: Optimised Economy 7 EWH load profiles of 500 households with a curtailment event

Figure 5: Economy 7 hot water tank thermal capacity and load on capability from 500 homes


Optimised load switching Repeat run with 15 minute load curtailment




total service availability % of households able to provide15 min load on
5.4 Stored Energy & Load On Capabilities
As the large scale renewable energy and embedded generation connected to the grid increases,
there is a greater need to have flexible demand and the capability to switch load on. Figure 5
shows how the current use of Economy 7 EWH load in hot water tanks can be translated into
readily available additional demand for the System Operator to utilise. This has been
characterised by the proportion of EWHs that can be switched on instantaneously for at least
15 minutes. The plot of total service availability highlights that Economy 7 switched loads
provide significant load on potential during the day.
Monte Carlo simulations describe a technique used to model stochastic systems and establish
the risk or uncertainty for particular outcomes. The Monte Carlo method has been applied to
help solve many problems in which it is too complex to deterministically determine the
patterns of variable parameters. Subsequent work will focus on applying this approach to the
modelling framework presented in this paper. Rather than analysing single load profiles,
thousands of simulations will be repeated in order to produce meaningful results that
characterise aggregated EWH load under different initial conditions. A key part of future
work will further involve sensitivity analysis, in which the variation of different model factors
will have their relative impact measured. Thereby identifying which inputs have the greatest
influence on the simulation uncertainty and therefore require the most attention. For example,
the affect of altering the probability density associated with occupancy number, tank size,
tank insulation and thermostat temperature will be studied in detail. Subsequently scenario
analysis may help identify and inform how best to implement any future DSR strategy for
The transition to a low carbon electricity network will require much greater participation of
demand side measures for balancing. Whilst there is greater complexity associated with
domestic DSR, its magnitude and flexibility make it a highly attractive resource. This article
has focused in particular at the untapped opportunity from current RTS load on the network,
which may enable dynamic DSR. To assess this potential a new Markov Chain model has
been developed that builds upon knowledge found in the literature. An occupancy based
approach is used to generate high resolution data on household hot water consumption and
electricity load; whereas empirical records have been used to verify that the simulations are
producing reliable output. By means of the popular Economy 7 tariff, aggregated household
EWH load is simulated to show an example of how current practice can be transformed into a
more energy efficient provision that may also improve occupants hot water availability.
Additionally, a new DSR service is characterised by its ability to offer a greater distribution of
load curtailment, as well as the potential of switching load on, which is seen as having
increasing value. In order to get a more robust understanding of aggregated EWH and its
value for DSR, future work will focus on Monte Carlo simulations that measure uncertainty.
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