June 19, 2009
| by Steven Castle
Advocates of green technology see the bright skies of a cleaner, greener future—as well as huge business opportunities as many of us strive to go greener. And one of those opportunities is in home control, also known as home automation.
Green technology advocates like myself see the benefit of using electronics to help save energy in a home by shutting off our gadgets and gizmos automatically, controlling our lighting so we’re not leaving on banks of lights unnecessarily, and regulating HVAC systems in our homes more effectively. And as more and more homeowners invest in solar panels and receive smart meters from their utilities, interest in energy monitoring systems will boom. With energy monitoring systems, we’re able to learn how much energy our homes are using—and then do something to cut those costs.
But what can we do about it, especially if we’re not there or if we forget to shut something off or neglect to press the right button?
This is where home control (and automation) systems come in. These systems can be programmed to shut lights off at certain times, shut off electrical components that aren’t being used, regulate temperatures throughout the house, open and close motorized shades and windows, even cut power to electronics so they don’t use wasteful standby or vampire power. A lot of good, green stuff can be done with today’s home automation systems. We have the technology.
“A lot of it has to do with going to the processor and logic programming,” says Harold Clark, director design and marketing for custom electronic installer Commercial Electronics in Vancouver, B.C., and somewhat of a green technology advocate himself. “It involves a lot of thinking up front and programming. And it’s [largely] an IT (Information Technology) function.” Unfortunately, Clark goes on, “our industry has been resistant to IT.”
However, Clark adds that you also should consider what levels of automation are appropriate for some homes—both in the scope of a system and the return on investment. “Sustainability has to be measured in the initial outlay cost.”
In other words, can the amount of energy being saved over time make up for the investment in a home control system?
That is a key question for anyone considering such a system. Though many green homeowners have invested in expensive solar panels, knowing they won’t receive a return on their investment for years or decades.
Clark reports that architects and designers in the Vancouver area are diving into going green—the mayor wants it to be known as a green city—and are requesting all kinds of information about light dimming and energy-efficient lamps. And Vancouver isn’t the only place this is happening.
Now, can we interest them in some home control systems as well?
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates