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Blog: Smart Homes and the Energy-Conscientious

By Brooke C. Stoddard

This is part 2 of our series of stories on Smart Home Technology. To read part one, click here.

Homes require energy, and all homeowners would like to see their electricity, water, and HVAC bills decrease. For years, purveyors of automated home systems controlling thermostats and other energy-related components have purported that spending money on their systems eventually pays for itself on account of lower bills paid to utility companies. Add to this the arguments 1) that a homeowner buying energy-reduction Smart Home technology does the planet good by using less electricity, water, and heating/cooling fuels, and 2) that Smart Home energy-saving devices make a property more valuable, then the sales of the equipment and installation to homeowners becomes easier.

For years, Smart Home technology has been able to program thermostat settings. Add to this the ability to raise and lower water heater temperatures, open and close window accessories for the admitting or blocking of sunshine, monitor vacation homes for temperatures that are too low or too high, control lighting and pool warmers when homeowners might be forgetful, and tie in solar collectors, and you have the beginnings of energy savings that heartens any homeowner and perhaps even utility companies.

According to an official at Serrafix, a Boston consulting firm in the energy field, a significant fraction of energy consumption in a home is “vampire load,” that is, the likes of a plasma television not visibly on but still drawing electricity, phone chargers not charging phones but plugged in and drawing current, water heaters turning on to maintain water temperature even though no one is home, and so on — so there is plenty of opportunity for energy savings. Power monitoring displays alone have been shown to alter homeowners’ behavior to effect power consumption of 4 to 15%.1 Vantage Controls, a luxury home controls company, believes energy savings from its systems can run from 20 to 40%.2

The CABA (Continental Automated Building Association) in 2008 issued its report Bright Green Buildings: Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings. Assistance was provided by such companies and groups as BAE Systems, Cisco, Johnson Controls, Trane, U. S. Department of Energy, the U. S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC) and more. Mainly it deals with commercial buildings but is a detailed look at the potential available when merging electronic controls with energy-saving techniques.

There are a number of resources one can use to learn more about residential energy efficiency. Wired magazine develops content it calls “Wired Home” about technology for residences. In conjunction with that effort it supports work on radically energy-efficient homes for demonstration at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Technology. The USGBC puts out information on energy efficiency; a short primer is Green Homes are Better Homes, a two-page PDF available at www.usgbc.org. The American Institute of Architects is another resource, though it tends to deal with commercial and institutional buildings rather than residences. An example is Deep Energy Retrofits: An Emerging Opportunity, which is available for free at the AIA website. In May 2012, McGraw-Hill Construction published SmartMarket Report: New and Remodeled Green Homes: Transforming the Residential Market. And the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) often runs articles on energy-efficiency in conjunction with Smart Home technology.

Editor’s note: Be sure to check out Brooke’s 3rd part in this series, which focuses on getting the right training to install smart home technology, next week.

1 Wikipedia “Home Energy Monitor”
2 Mashable.com: 2012/03/07

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