A well-planned home technology system can lead to more control and less cost (and it’s good for the planet, too!)

Published in: Innovative Home | Spring 2008 | By Jennifer Griffin

The current darling of the shelter industry, green building is a concept that’s quickly gaining ground. In fact, earth-savvy homeowners are spending more time than ever selecting the right building materials and looking for ways to conserve resources. An area that is often overlooked or understated, however, is home technology. A fantastic way for homeowners to have a positive impact on the environment, home tech is a benefit they can experience month after month and year after year.

There are countless ways to utilize home technology for energy savings in your new or existing home with very little impact on your lifestyle. In fact, often it makes your everyday life easier. For example, the Simpson family of Mercer Island, Washington explained that they were inadvertently leaving several lights on in their 8,000-square-foot home and were frustrated about the time and energy wasted. It was as simple as replacing 175 standard light switches with programmable “smart” switches and tying these into a home automation system. “Our new system is great and so easy to use,” said the Simpson’s. “I hit a single button on the way out the door or when I go to bed, and all lights in our home power off. We’ve already experienced savings in our power bill.”

Bright Ideas
• Make a quick and simple change right now by replacing your standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.

• Use your home control system to program your lights to 80 percent capacity. Although it is barely noticeable to the eye, you save 20 percent every time you use them. You may find certain spaces and/or times of day that allow you to dim the lights even further.

• Lighting with built-in occupancy sensors can assist with shutting lights on and off automatically in low-use areas such as the garage or the laundry room. Also, enjoy the convenience when your hands are full!

Warming Trends
• Control heating based on occupancy rather than schedules. A traditional programmable thermostat runs on a preset schedule. However, if your plans change, heating continues to run while you are away. With communicating thermostats and a home automation system, your system drops the temperature when you are away and automatically warms up when you arrive home. Alternatively, when on your way home from vacation, access your system remotely to adjust the temperatures back up.

• Manage heating and cooling based on when windows or doors are left open. With window sensors communicating back to your home automation system, it will know to leave the system off—even if you forgot to turn it off.

More High-Tech Energy Savers
• Water sensors can determine if it has rained enough in the last 48 hours, sending word back to your home automation system to not water the lawn if it’s not needed.

• The Energy Saving Trust of the UK Study predicts that by the year 2020, entertainment, computers, and gadgets will account for 45 percent of electricity used in the home. Consider analyzing options before making an electronic purchase. For example, compare the choice between LCD’s and plasmas. Energy usage for a 42-inch LCD television is rated at approximately 150 watts* vs. 250 watts* for the same size plasma television. (*Varies slightly depending on manufacturer.)

• Did you know that when you turn appliances off, they still utilize electricity? It’s true! Your television, microwave, and stereo are just a few examples of everyday products drawing power—on or off. Use “smart” power controllers to automatically cut the power to the outlet when not in use. Think of the savings if you can power off those items just for the 40 hours a week you are at work.

By harnessing the power of automation and making your home work for you, you’re guaranteed to save time, money, and precious resources. Now that’s a risk-free proposition!

Measuring Success
The easiest way to measure a successful project is through a reduced power bill, but there are many other ways you can reduce your impact on the environment, such as considering the use of copper in the home or buying your products locally to reduce the transport and fuel costs.

A recent Consumer Electronics Association study of consumers shows that 32 percent of recent home buyers regret not spending money on an energy management system. Consider implementing just a few of these ideas, and you’ll easily experience a savings of 10 percent to 15 percent. If you want to experience even more energy savings—as much as 30 percent to 50 percent, depending on the home—invite an experienced integrator to assess your home and plan the most effective technology solutions.

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