December 16, 2011
| by Steven Castle
Yes, we’ve said it before: Home automation is a key to having effective energy efficiency in your house. But now we have even more proof.
According to recent survey by consumer green research company The Shelton Group, Americans would pay an average of $112 more a month in energy bills before taking action on making their homes more energy efficient. That number is down from previous years, but it’s disturbing nonetheless. Even though our consciousness about energy efficiency is growing—and more and more people embrace it as a way to save money—we either don’t act on our intentions or don’t know how to go about it.
The Shelton Group also found that the average number of energy-efficient home improvements was 2.6, versus about four improvements needed to foster significant energy savings.
Many of us just don’t do energy efficiency upgrades because they are a big pain in the you-know-what. And who wants to keep track of their energy usage, even with a cool energy monitoring system? We need something more.
The Automated Energy Diet
Jim Carroll of Savant, which sells high-end control systems based on the Apple computer platform, likens energy monitoring alone to have a scale to check your weight. That’s nice, but what are you actually going to do to lose that weight? That’s where an energy management system comes in.
For example, Savant’s SmartEnergy Monitor, which the company is rolling out, works with the Savant home control system to give energy information and allow someone to use that information to turn off lights, or set the thermostat back, or do other things. You can see an energy gauge that includes lighting, and touch that to go to a lighting page to make changes, for example.
Energy Automation for All Budgets
Systems from Savant, Crestron, Vantage and others can even be programmed to turn off or turn down devices if preset energy use ceilings are reached—though this will likely require programming costs.
Even lower-end systems being sold by the likes of ADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint and Alarm.com, can be programmed with basic macros and timed events to turn things off when someone leaves the house and the security system is armed, for instance.
Whether you opt for high-end or less expensive systems, this is the kind of automation that’s really required for us to have true energy efficiency and energy management in our homes. And the need will become even greater as smart grid services from electric utilities roll out with variable rate structures like Time of Use, in which the electric rates change throughout the day depending on demand. With a smart meter and smart appliance, you’ll be able to delay a dishwashing cycle to a cheaper time. You can do the same with charging an electric vehicle, and maybe even use the energy stored in the vehicle’s batteries to power your house or help power the grid (called V2G). But what about having a real, smart energy management system that knows your needs and habits and can save you energy, or repurpose it—without you using all of your energy to do so? (Which we know we won’t.)
This is why automation is so critical to having effective energy management in our homes. We need it to automate those tasks, to work to save us energy behind the scenes and only alert us with texts, emails or Tweets when we need to be.
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