It may well be time to get smart when it comes to home electricity usage, with technologies associated with the ever-expanding collection of devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT), in particular, providing consumers the ability to manage, monitor and potentially reduce their usage.
While smart home technology provides for an enhanced level of control of the various connected devices that are increasingly finding their way into homes, allowing users to remotely control and monitor their home technology ecosystem from a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, it also can provide electricity-saving benefits
Smart home technology is still relatively new, yet the industry is poised for growth, with new devices and appliances now increasingly being produced with an internet connection built-in as standard. Meanwhile, smart, automated capabilities are also becoming a more common feature in appliances and devices.
Amid this emerging, all-encompassing connectivity, consumers are becoming increasingly empowered to take control of their device and appliance usage. Of course, this does not automatically equate to electricity savings, but for those keen on utilising these new technologies, a number of options are available.
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Smart lighting may well be a good starting point for consumers looking to set up a smart home and potentially reap energy saving benefits, with there being a number of products on the market, allowing for remote smartphone or tablet control of various functions.
Philips’ Hue wireless LED light bulbs, for instance, are linked via Wi-Fi (via the Philips Hue bridge) and are controllable via the Philips Hue app, providing a number of personalisation options, such as changing colour, while allowing users remote control via a mobile device.
In terms of energy saving, time and event-based triggers could help out home owners, with the Hue system capable of being programmed to turn on or off at particular times.
Heating and cooling
Heating and cooling, of course, can consume a large portion of household electricity budgets, and for households concerned about costs, any way in which they can be reduced is worth looking into.
There are a number of automated heating/cooling products on the market, designed to provide a higher level of functionality and adaptability for individual homes. Panasonic’s ECONAVI intelligent sensors, featured in models in its air conditioning range, for instance, employ a number of smart technology features to help drive down electricity usage.
Models in the ECONAVI range feature a Human Activity Sensor and a Sunlight Sensor, being able to monitor human location, movements, absence and sunlight intensity, then automatically adjusting cooling power for energy saving.
Smart sensors are designed to give home owners an extra level of control over the way that they interact with appliances and devices, with motion sensors serving a variety of purposes, from security to automated running of appliances.
Belkin’s WeMo Switch and WeMo Motion Kit is one such device, which allows users “to set schedules for home appliances and electronics and turn devices on and off remotely”. Detecting movement up to 10 feet away, the sensor wirelessly signals the WeMo Switch to turn the connected device on or off, depending on the user’s preference.
Using this sort of smart technology in conjunction with lighting systems or home heating or cooling could well provide home owners with an extra level of control over their energy usage, assisting in driving down costs.
In addition to some of the devices already discussed, a range of internet-enabled appliances are currently entering the market, from ovens, to fridges to coffee machines and washing machines, providing users further levels of control over their wider appliance ecosystem.
Consumers should be aware of these features when purchasing a new appliance, and their potential to deliver electricity savings. For instance, smart appliances might offer the ability to pre-program start times, providing users the ability to schedule their usage outside of peak usage times, while also allowing for remote, mobile operation.
Time to get smart?
With the number of connected devices growing in households around the country, and amid the rollout of the NBN, the basic infrastructure is in many ways being installed for the smart home, which is likely to evolve over time.
A study released in August last year by technology analyst firm Telsyte found that the Australian IoT at home market “is set to skyrocket”, with spending on IoT home products and services to grow almost eleven-fold over the next four years, from $289 million last year to $3.2 billion in 2019.
Telsyte forecast that, with the average household last year containing nine connected devices, by 2019 this will rise to 24 devices, with the market poised to “naturally evolve as internet connectivity is baked into many existing products and services”.
Certainly, for consumers looking to take charge of their energy usage via smart appliances and devices many opportunities exist, with a number of platforms available via which to control connected appliances and devices.
Of course, electricity savings will not be automatic, users will need to tailor and make their individual systems work for them, and this will be part of the challenge going forward.