Monday, January 21, 2008

Energy Conservation and Home Automation


Home automation technology is becoming as synonymous with sustainability as it is with convenience. Incorporating smart home technology into a new or existing structure makes it easier to reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint (your impact on the environment) a home or business creates. Why go green? Our actions over the last 50 years, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have led to increased greenhouse gasses (like carbon dioxide emissions and methane) which in turn cause global warming. Environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility, so do your part by making simple changes that not only help the earth, but will also save you money and add convenience to your home. With many new easy to install home automation products readily available, it’s now simpler than ever to automate your home and go green at the same time!

There are countless uncomplicated ways you can automate and green your home simultaneously. In addition to utilizing energy efficient lighting (like compact fluorescent light bulbs and LEDs), Energy Star appliances and alternative energy sources (such as solar, geothermal and wind power), you can integrate energy-saving smart lighting controls, power controllers that turn appliances off automatically and programmable climate control systems. Automated irrigation systems and automatic faucets can help you reduce your water usage, too. Many of these simple solutions are very affordable, so you won’t break the bank in the process. Plus, the money you’ll save on your energy bills will help offset the costs to automate your home.
Now, you know you need to turn appliances and electronics off to save energy, but did you know that once you turn them off, they are still using electricity? That’s right – many items in your home continue to draw energy even after they are shut down – items like your computer and its peripherals, your television, stereo, microwave and stove. These items go into standby mode once switched off and create what’s known as a “phantom load” which can add up to 8% to your electricity bill. Luckily, there’s an easy way to eliminate phantom loads – the Smart Strip power strip. The Smart Strip automatically detects when you have turned an item off and completely cuts power to a device so it stops drawing electricity and provides surge protection.

Another effortless way to green your home is to take control of your energy consumption by finding out exactly how much you’re using. Armed with tools like the Kill-A-Watt and the PowerCost Monitor, you can measure how much electricity an item uses, or find out how much electricity you’re whole household uses. Many electricity companies offer lower rates during off-peak hours, such as nights and weekends. Using appliances like washers, dryers, air conditioners and dishwashers during these off-peak hours can lead to substantial savings on your electricity bill, and you can use the PowerCost Monitor to confirm this. It can be programmed to reflect two rates—one for off-peak periods and one for peak periods—so you know how much money you’re spending on electricity at any given time. Once you determine these facts, you can reduce usage or replace energy hogs with more efficient items. These real-time energy usage meters will help you understand your habits and can get you to become more efficient with your energy consumption needs.

If you want to make a simple, quick change right now that will lighten the load on the earth and save you money, you can focus on just one thing: lighting. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 19% of global electricity generation is taken for lighting. A worldwide switch to efficient lighting systems would reduce the world’s electricity bill by one tenth, reports the IEA. So do something simple and make the change to compact fluorescent light bulbs, then take it one step further and add tools to help you reduce your electricity consumption even more. Turning off lights is an obvious way to reduce our energy consumption, yet we still forget to do it, so why not install an occupancy sensor, which means you’ll never have to remember to turn off the lights again. Occupancy sensors can be equipped with passive infrared and photocells which detect movement and will turn off if there is adequate natural light available.

When you’re ready to take the next steps towards automating and greening your home, check out Z-Wave starter kits, modules and whole-house systems. Z-Wave is an affordable home control system that connects your home electronics (appliances, lighting, climate control, security systems and more) into an integrated wireless network, allowing you to control these items with a remote control, with your PC, from the Internet and with your cell phone. Z-Wave systems are plug-and-play and wireless, so you don’t have to deal with any timely or costly installation, and they’re modular too, so you can add or remove as your needs require.

As you can see, home automation and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. Greening you home can add up to significant savings, both for you and the Earth, and adding home automation to the mix only makes your life easier!

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