Technology today is making a bigger impact on our lives than ever before and, in many cases, can establish a green footprint by reducing the amount of energy resources our homes use. Adding electronic systems to use less energy may seem contradictory. But there are many devices available now that can lead to a greener, more energy-efficient way of life. When these devices are combined and integrated with a smart home automation system, a sustainable ripple effect occurs, including positive effects on the environment and your wallet. The following smart home products exemplify how technology can enhance not only the comfort and conveniences in your home, but also make it a greener place to live.
Remote Power Management
The more smart home systems your home has, the more energy it will consume. But with a power management device like the BlueBolt from Panamax/Furman, the Axcess Elite from SurgeX, or the NP36 Network Patroller Gateway from Pakedge, you can actively control how much juice your systems are eating. You can use the information that’s fed to your smartphone (or some other device) to track the energy consumption and schedule times for certain devices, like a DVR or a room air conditioner, to turn off automatically. Most power management systems also allow you to turn devices on and off remotely. For example, you could activate a space heater for a workshop on your way home from work or deactivate a curling iron as you sip a latte at the coffee shop. As a side benefit, they allow you and/or your home systems integrator to remotely reset and reboot specific devices like cable boxes, DVRs, and modems.
For even greater convenience, many power management devices can be integrated with certain home automation systems, which means you’ll be able to monitor and control devices from the same menu on a touchpanel or app on a smartphone or tablet that you use to operate your home’s lights and thermostats. In one fell swoop, you can turn off the DVR and Blu-ray player in your home theater while resetting the thermostats and shutting off the lights.
Shading solutions are an excellent way to leave a green footprint, through a process called “daylight harvesting.” By using certain window treatment fabrics and attaching them to motorized roller/drapery hardware, you can easily and effectively control the amount of light and heat that passes through a window; it just takes a tap of a button on a keypad, remote control, or your smartphone. This can help minimize your heating bill by using the sun for supplementary warmth. And you can leverage the savings even more by using the natural sunlight to illuminate certain areas of your home instead of relying solely on artificial lighting. Harvest heat and light without any human interaction by automating the shade and drapery motors to open and close based on the time of day or the intensity of the sun.
Dimming a home’s lights is probably the simplest way to establish a green footprint. Dimming instantly reduces energy consumption and extends the life of a bulb. The operation of smart light switches can be automated in a number of ways: by timer, an occupancy sensor, and through integration with a home automation system. When tied to an automation system, dimmer switches can be programmed to turn off whenever the garage door closes (a sign that you’ve left for the day) or when you touch a “goodnight” button on a keypad by your bed. Pair your dimmers with LED light bulbs (note: not all LEDs are able to be dimmed), and you’ll reap even greater green rewards.
Indoor Climate Control
Just because you’re not ready to give up your traditional heating and cooling system for alternative methods, such as solar, doesn’t mean you can’t be a least a little bit green. Smart, programmable thermostats, for example, are a good first step toward your green goals. They’ve been around for years, and they do the job for which they were designed—running your heating and cooling system on a schedule you establish and program into the stat. This solution might work for families who are consistently able to adhere to the predefined schedule, but for those that are unable, there’s still hope. Learning thermostats, like the uber-popular Nest, are able to conform to your household behaviors and adjust its temperature settings accordingly.
Home automation manufacturers, like Control4 with its new wireless thermostat by Aprilaire, are supporting this more flexible form of climate control by offering the ability to create several “lifestyle presets.” Using Control4’s Comfort User Interface, these presets can be designed around certain activities that take place in your home; for example, an “exercise” preset could instruct the thermostat to lower the temperature for a workout, while a “movie” preset adjusts the climate in the media room. All you do is tap the appropriate preset on a touch screen whenever you’re ready. This way the climate in your house is comfortable at all times, no matter how your day unfolds, and you waste no energy heating areas that don’t need it.
Energy Monitoring Devices
Energy monitoring devices provide real-time feedback so you can monitor your household electricity consumption, learn which products are sucking the most energy, and apply the information to make educated adjustments to your lifestyle—or to invest in one of the many green technologies available. One of the most popular energy monitoring solutions is The Energy Detective (TED), a device that wires into your home’s electric panel to send real-time energy consumption reports to a dedicated countertop display. Through the data and forecasting features, you can monitor and budget your energy consumption more intelligently.
Several home automation platforms are embracing this “knowledge is power” concept, too. The g! system from Elan and the Smart Energy feature from Savant, for example, compile and present on the screen of an touchpanel or iPad historical data for each subsystem they’ve been set up to control, such as heating and cooling, swimming pool, and irrigation.
Technology doesn’t have to turn your green initiatives to dust. By choosing the right products and systems, your home can become more thoughtful in its use of energy. Home automation systems and specialty monitoring systems can gather and disseminate energy use data, so you can determine whether it’s the lights, the A/V equipment, or your heating and cooling system that’s consuming the most electricity. Then, you can take the next step with confidence, knowing that whether it’s the addition of motorized draperies, dimmable lighting, or a smarter thermostat, you’ll be leading a greener, more energy-efficient lifestyle. EH