Vacation homes are also prone to problems created by houseguests. Via a remote monitoring application, you could learn, for example, that someone had left open a window, making the AC work harder than it should. You could respond to the situation by using your mobile device or PC keyboard to temporarily turn off the heating and cooling system until the window has been closed. You could also turn off any lights that were left on, and lower the temperature of the swimming pool until your next guests arrive.
Awareness Changes Habits
Even if you don’t own a vacation home, remote monitoring can be a handy energy management tool. One emerging technology that ties in nicely with remote monitoring for both primary and secondary residences is the smart utility meter. By using it in combination with a security or home control system, you can view the current cost of electricity on an in-home touchpanel, or remotely via a PC or mobile device, and operate your electronic devices accordingly.
Many of the adjustments can happen automatically, like having the thermostat lower when electric rates are high. However, simply having access to real-time information about where your energy dollar is being spent could be all the incentive homeowners need to pick up their iPhones to turn off the porch lights and the swimming pool heater, says McClellan. “There’s a study that shows that when people understood right here, right now what they’re wasting, they changed their habits and saved an average of 11 percent on their utility bills.”
It may be a while before smart meters become widely available from utilities. In the meantime, consider using a device like The Energy Detective (TED) from Energy Inc., or the PowerCost Monitor from Blue Line Innovations. These devices, which cost $120 and $109, respectively, install either at your home’s main circuit breaker panel or at the electric meter and feed information to a small, wireless “energy dashboard.” The screen of the dashboard displays basic data about your electricity usage in real time. You can monitor how much you’ve spent on electricity daily, weekly or even by the hour, and use that information to discover ways to spend less.
To bring the concept full circle, these manufacturers are beginning to partner with home automation companies. TED, for one, works with systems from Cinemar, Control4, HAI and HomeSeer. “Our system can be programmed to do things based on the information it receives from TED,” says Mark Closgrove, director of sales and marketing at HomeSeer. “For example, you could designate certain devices in your home either as critical or non-critical. When you’ve reached a certain energy-management threshold, HomeSeer could shut down the non-critical devices.”
Of course, all that information and control is accessible remotely, as well. Don’t want your AC to turn off just yet? You can use the remote monitoring capabilities of your security or home control system to keep it humming … or not if you’d rather be green.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.