Eco Friendly Home Maintenance

Published on August 7th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor

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Home Automation vs. Utility Bill: Who wins the cost battle?

In the smart home of the future, an integrated system will allow your cell phone or tablet to control your security system, lighting, heating, and possibly even your sound system while you are away.  It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel however, these systems already exist!  But can these systems continue to thrive in a time where there is a growing push to reduce energy consumption?  Intuitively, one more electrical system would increase the amount of energy consumed and increase a home’s energy bill.  However, the reverse is actually true.  Not only will these systems and phone apps continue to exist; they will flourish.

Heating Mobile Apps

An exciting and rich domain is the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) applications that are available for mobile devices.  These apps allow you to connect to your thermostat wirelessly and do tasks like adjust your home temperature or adjust your heating schedule.  The ability to constantly monitor and control the temperature in your home allows you to take on your utility bill and knock it down.

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Winning the Game With Your Utility Bill

Utility companies are moving towards a demand response model of charging for energy.  In this model, electricity costs less during non-peak hours when it’s less expensive to produce and more during peak periods.  By owning a heating mobile app that allows you to remotely adjust the temperature of your home, you can reduce the home temperature during peak hours and increase it only when necessary.   Since your bill will reflect the usage and time of day you can continue to adjust your schedule and drive the bill further down.

Even Smarter Mobile Apps    

The systems that can learn the behavior of a specific house are truly exciting.  Each house is different due to its unique combination of amount of insulation, heating equipment, capacity of heating devices, and the accuracy of the home envelope seal.  All these factors contribute to the length of time it will take your home to heat up to a set temperature after being cooled down.  For example, when someone turns the temperature down when he or she goes to sleep the house has to heat up again in the morning.   These new systems will calculate how much time it takes for the home to heat up and figure out a way to do it in the most efficient manner.  It decides, “Should the heater turn on full blast for a short period of time?” or “Should we gradually increase it over a longer period of time?” This is adaptive decision making in a mobile app that will further impact a utility bill.

Home Automation Apps

Philips Hue: Philips launched this  lighting system that is controlled by a mobile iOS app. This gives the home owner the ability to dim, brighten, and change the color of its bulbs on command. The home system is controlled by a “bridge”, a small powered device that plugs into the back of a wireless router.  Zigbee’s Light Link is a technology used and allows the system to communicate outside of your home’s wifi. This is not a total home automation system but can be used to reduce energy usage.

Nest: Maybe one of the most hyped home controlled appliances on the market. The Next thermostat is a device that replaces your current thermostat. This device learns your home heating patters as you use it, and makes adjustments automatically. After the system learns your heating patterns it will automatically adjust the temperature doing off hours, leading to a lower energy bill!

Wemo: A mix between a switch and a motion sensor, Wemo allows you to control any device you have plugged in right from your iPhone.  The iOS app allows you to turn your TV off remotely, check to see if lights are on, and make other adjustments when you are on the go.

Synco: Built by Siemens, this the is commercial solution for HVAC automation. Synco enables you to plan a versatile, cost- and energy-efficient HVAC control system and to straightforwardly install and commission it – with no need for programming. In addition, functions like the energy indicator or the HomeControl app support the user in monitoring and controlling their HVAC plant, facilitating energy-efficient operation.

Loxone: Control every element of your home from your iPhone or Android. This app controls blinds, lights, and HVAC system directly from your mobile device. This is a miniserver-based home automation solution. Hardware is required to run the system, but the app is free!

The Final Knock Out

The control given to you by home automation apps is astounding and allows you to work within the rate system of your local energy company to manage your own energy bill.  In the battle between rising energy costs and the desire to have a home automation system have no fear.  Home automation can lead to utility bill reduction and allow for increased home comfort.

Green Living Ideas would like to thank MM Comfort Systems for sponsoring this post.

Author Bio: Craig Williamson (cwilliamson@mmcomfortsystems.com) is the owner of MM Comfort Systems, a leading Puget Sound Region provider of heating / cooling system installation, retrofit and services for residential and light commercial markets. Currently Vice Chairman of Washington Policy Center – one of the nation’s premier State think tanks which conducts research, publishes studies, and educates citizens on public policy issues facing our region. Previous president & CEO of Abacus Engineered Systems, an engineering and construction company specializing in institutional facility performance. Prior to Abacus, Craig was President North America for AEI a company with global revenues of over $120 million. You can find Craig on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.


About the Author

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