Published in: Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, Green Pages
April 2009 | By Jennifer Griffin

Advances in home control systems have made it easier for automatic controls to operate lighting, regulate temperature, monitor irrigation, and manage energy use. The result is a home that functions to promote optimum comfort, while conserving money, energy, water, and time. Green Building products and strategies built into a home are just the first step. How we use, operate, and maintain these features as we live in the home also contributes to the total package of environmental benefits and ensures that these designed benefits fulfill on their environmental promises.

Lighting Control Solutions.
CFL or LED bulbs and fixtures and motion sensing solutions are always a great place to start to provide smart lighting solutions. With a home control system, the lights can respond based on time of day, occupancy of the home, or be adjusted manually when needed.

Temperature Control Solutions.
The downfall of simple programmable thermostats, is that they are based singularly on time of day, and do not account for other variables, such as the homeowner occupancy or schedule changes. With an integrated thermostat, the home control system will set things right, even when you forget or plans change. Settings will automatically adjust based on events, time, or sensor (water, humidity, or temperature) readings. If you forget to tell your system you are on vacation, a simple phone call or log-in via the Internet allows for easy remote access. Automated window coverings can automatically close to avoid solar gain in the summer, or be left open to take advantage of rare sunny days in winter. The system can also automatically turn off the air conditioner or heat when a window is opened, and turn itself back on when all windows are closed.

Smart Irrigation Solutions.
Water sensors determine whether it has rained the last 24 hours, and report to the home control system on whether it is necessary to turn itself on or to skip its programmed cycle for the day altogether.

Energy Management Solutions. 
Energy management begins with controlling phantom loads – the amount of energy used by electronic equipment when they are not in use, but still plugged in. If you are buying new products, choose models that offer low power consumption when in stand-by mode to reduce phantom loads. If you are working with an existing array of electronics, find out which ones are drawing the most power. The good news is that many manufactures are focusing on lowering phantom loads. Also, your local home technology company should be able to test your current equipment, and let you know the annual cost of operation.

Try to eliminate the power-hungry standby modes of your electronics, such as microwaves, printers, gaming consoles or cable boxes, by cutting power to such devices when not in in use.

Today, home control systems have made it easier than ever to integrate smart technology, without contributing to your overall environmental footprint. Next time you leave home, simply touch a button — and allow your home to set its own security, turn off lights, set back the thermostat, drop the blinds, and shutdown all equipment that has a large draw in standby mode. With home technology, you can make your home as green as you intended it to be.
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