A lot of companies, including us, want homeowners to be aware of the potential energy savings you can achieve through home automation. Green technology is very big right now, but as usual there are people who want to exploit “Green” as nothing more than a way to sell their products. This is called “Greenwashing” and it is becoming far too common. At OneTouch Automation, we want you to be well informed before you make any home automation decision. We will also never make promises about energy savings that can’t be supported by the facts. So here is the straight story on what home automation can and can’t do to save energy.
Your Automation System Only Saves Energy If It Is Designed To Do So
This may be the most important thing you should know. A poorly designed home automation system can actually use more energy. The thing to remember is that home automation systems use energy. Obviously, you will only save energy if the system saves more power than it uses. That won’t happen unless the home automation system has the right equipment to work with. That means starting with an energy smart design for the home and buying energy efficient appliances. Once you have the right appliances and lighting in place, it is the job of the automation system to find ways to control the outside environment (like sunlight) and to reduce the operating time and operating level of powered equipment like the lights, furnaces and air conditioning. There are many systems that could be part of an energy saving strategy. They include:
Hot water systems.
Home office, home entertainment and other electronic equipment.
Heating and cooling/air conditioning systems.
Fans and air pumps/heat shifters.
Powered window blinds, shutters and awnings.
Powered vents and window openings.
Water pumps, pool pumps and spas.
Where You Can Really Save Energy
Heating and Cooling
Design your home to make the best use of solar energy and natural ventilation for passive heating and cooling before you consider your automation options. Use temperature sensors in different rooms to control heating and cooling. Appropriate placement of temperature sensors and the use of heating/AC timers can significantly reduce energy use, even if automated systems are not used. Analyse your heating/cooling needs and how you will manage these. Ask yourself what rooms need to be heated/cooled, when and to what temperature? Aim to heat/cool living areas when people are home but heat/cool bedrooms only at night and the early morning when they’re occupied. Bedrooms do not need to be made as warm or as cool as living areas, to be comfortable for sleeping. Avoid heating and cooling halls, laundries etc. Plan your automation system. Consider how opening and closing blinds, awnings, windows and vents can assist passive heating, cooling and natural lighting.
Your hot water heater should either be on-demand or one that shuts down when you are away for long periods. You don’t want to keep hundreds of litres of water hot when there’s no-one there to use it.
Once you have energy efficient lights, like CFL or LED, they should only be used when needed. That means using the convenience of a touch panel to shut off unused lights and using motion sensors so that a vacant room will shut off on its own. Focus on rooms like bathrooms where lights are frequently left on. Look at setting the lights to a 60% level during the day. You won’t notice and the power savings are immediate.
Most modern appliances are “instant on.” In order to do that, they never actually shut off, but stay in “standby” mode, which means they are constantly using power. A home automation system can be used to actually power the equipment down completely at times when it isn’t likely to be used. In a large home, this can avoid wasting hundreds of watts of power. This is especially important in energy-hungry devices like large TV monitors, but it can also apply to everything from coffee makes to computers.
Controlling sunlight in the house can definitely make a difference in energy use. Let the sun heat your house in winter, and still keep AC at a minimum in the summer by using powered blinds or curtains programmed to close at exactly the right time to maximize comfort and savings.
More and more utility companies are changing pricing based on the time of day the electricity is used. A top of the line home automation system can be programmed to adapt to this system (for example, automatically cutting back on air conditioning during peak periods). It can also be programmed so that a warning appears on your touch screen at times when power is at its most expensive. This may not cut consumption, but it can still help with the utility bills.
At OneTouch Automation, we want to make sure our clients are given only the most accurate information about automating their home. If someone makes energy-saving promises that sound too good to be true, they probably are. Saving power is a good thing, and within limits, home automation can help but it doesn’t do miracles. It is an important part of an overall green strategy that responsible homeowners are now putting in place. For a custom designed system that works perfectly for your needs, contact us today.