Inventor stories: Tanya Ewing's Ewgeco saves money - and the planet

With winter fast approaching, and George Osborne's much awaited comprehensive spending review due to be announced later today, there is a definite chill in the air.  Never fear though, 41-year-old Scottish inventor Tanya Ewing is helping to simultaneously tackle both the deficit and the rising cost of heating - enabling organisations and individuals alike to be more energy efficient and save money with her product Ewgeco.

Inspired by one particularly astronomical gas bill, and driven on by the frustrating experience of trying to accurately read and understand her various utility meters, Tanya set out in search of a single device which would clearly and simply display her energy use in real time - enabling her to adjust her behaviour accordingly and reduce the eventual cost of her bills.

Scouring high and low Tanya found a number of exciting and often very cool products on the market capable of monitoring electricity usage but nothing that covered all three main utilities - electricity, water, and gas.

To Tanya, the demand for such a device seemed obvious, almost too obvious.  She took the idea to the Innovators Counselling & Advisory Service for Scotland (ICASS), and in confidence, discussed its potential.

A former dental nurse, Tanya had no scientific or engineering background, or indeed any experience in running her own business, but from the advice she received from ICASS it was clear she was on to something.  Jumping in to action, in 2006 Tanya started working on her patent application, protecting her idea and enabling her to explore how to take advantage of a potentially lucrative gap in the market.

Attaching to the individual utility supply meters, Ewgeco uses remote monitors to send signals back to a central display unit which shows energy usage (and cost) using a traffic light system - green, amber, and red - tracking current usage against your average rate of consumption.

Launched in 2007, the multi award winning Ewgeco is the world's first and only such real time monitoring device - empowering businesses and individuals to be more energy efficient.

Although not the cheapest energy monitor on the market, or the easiest to install, Ewgeco is the only fully comprehensive system out there and has been proven on average to pay for itself within its first year.

Initially targeting the corporate market, early adopters such as local authorities and schools have reported significant savings after installing Tanya's patented product.  Indeed one particular school discovered that the night watchman was keeping the heating on for the whole school just for himself in the evenings - the overall cost saving was £22,000 pound!

More recently Ewgeco has found a home with some of the country's major suppliers of affordable housing, such as Perthshire Housing Association and Dunedin Housing Association.  The perfect tool to help new and refitted housing meet the criteria set out under the Government's 'Code for Sustainable Homes', Tanya's product is helping housing association tenants across the land reduce their carbon footprint, and perhaps more importantly in the current climate, save cash as well.

As well as being featured as one of the 15 products in the British Library's 'Inventing the 21st Century' exhibition, Ewgeco has won Tanya countless awards including British Female Inventor of the Year 2008.

With public sector organisations in search of efficiency savings, business constantly exploring ways to cut costs, the prospect of rising energy prices, and the increasingly looming issue of climate change, the British Library team expect bright things for Tanya and her team over the years to come.

To learn more about Ewgeco please visit www.ewgeco.com. Or if you missed last week's 'Inventor story', check out Trekinetic, the all-terrain wheelchair, here. And to find out more about the British Library's brilliant British inventions exhibition, visit the 'Inventing the 21st Century' website.

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