November 16, 2009
| by Lisa Montgomery
When is the best time to have full electronic control over your house? Often it’s when you’re away. It’s easy to control your home while you’re there, but when you’re at work or on the road, it’s tough to know which electronics have been left on, sucking up electricity, when they really should be off.
“Turning things off is the basic tenet of saving energy,” says Jay McClellan, president of HAI (Home Automation Inc.), a manufacturer of energy-conscious home control systems.
A remote monitoring system lets you do just that, right from your cell phone, iPod touch or any other Internet-connected mobile device.
Remote monitoring has been perceived largely as a way to be alerted of security issues, like a break-in or a water leak in the basement. Now, in the wake of the green movement, it’s also poised as an effective way to curb energy use.
Make no mistake, security will always be at the core of remote monitoring, but you can get the green benefits along with the safety measures, says Joe Lautner, vice president of marketing and sales for HomeLogic, a manufacturer of home control systems. “With the right set of features, you can take what was once strictly for security and use it as a green solution as well.”
For the best performance, use a home control system with built-in security features. That one system will not only be able to protect your home from fire and burglary, it will also be able to control the lighting, thermostats and some appliances. Many security-capable home control systems also come with remote monitoring options that allow you to manage those devices from anywhere in the world, just as if you were pressing a button on the security keypad by your front door.
That same AWAY button that sweeps through the house, turning off anything that’s on, could also be activated from your iPhone or PC. While you’re logged into the system, you could also put the lights, entertainment components, water heater, irrigation system and motorized shades into an energy savings mode.
Big Savings for Vacation Homes
Many vacation homes can have sensors installed to report changes in the home’s environmental status—directly to a mobile device. “Having outbound alerts is a very powerful tool when it comes to energy management, particularly for owners of vacation homes,” says Lautner. He cites one family that saw a 40 percent reduction in fuel usage.
“Prior to having a HomeLogic system installed in his vacation ski home in Vermont, the family kept the property set at 55 degrees when the home was unoccupied. After having remote monitoring capabilities added, he felt more comfortable reducing the setting to 50 degrees, because he knew the system would alert him if the temperature ever dropped below 50, which could cause the pipes to freeze.”
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.