Automation has been rising in popularity with new and evolving technologies, and wireless communication can now be found in anything from lamps to washers and dryers.
The point of automation is less work for the user, but that’s not necessarily true for your energy company; some common uses of automation drain a lot more power than others.
Following are a few tips for saving money and energy at home with the wise use of automation.
Responsible Home Theaters
Home theaters are the most common areas to see energy-sucking automation. Some automation systems keep amplifiers on standby mode, or even worse, on but not producing sound. An amplifier can use up to 35 Watts of power if it stays on without playing music.
On the other hand, great strides have been taken with televisions. TVs with EnergyStar ratings are limited to a standby power of 1 Watt. That’s compared to older, tube TVs, which use up to 16 Watts.
If you’re looking to set up automation in your theater room, look for solutions that use computers with standby mode. And be sure that other components — like amplifiers, subwoofers, and touch screens — are completely turned off when not being used.
Automated lights can also trickle unnecessary energy. Most of these systems use a hidden computer to switch the light on or off. These computers range in size and power consumption. Look for one that enables standby mode after a short time.
Other lighting controls use a special base that connects directly to the light socket. These systems send wireless signals through a small circuit board in the base unit. The light socket will power the circuit board and the bulb. When purchasing any stand-alone lighting unit, ask how much energy the base unit uses, or measure it yourself. An inefficient base unit could counteract the efficient light bulb it controls.
Most homes only have a few windows with direct sunlight at any given time. While home installations are generally not practical for window-covering automation, commercial space can be. Large rooms can be dimmed and brightened with the ease of a switch. There are plenty of large buildings which save thousands a year with optimized shades.
Heating and Cooling
The digital thermostat has revolutionized heating and cooling automation by allowing you to program your thermostat to match your schedule, and most automated thermostats are equipped to program settings for each day of the week. For maximum benefit, digital thermostats should be re-programmed each season. If you have lost the manual to your thermostat, check the manufacturer’s website, or contact them directly.
Also try using natural sunlight to heat rooms. Open your shades or other window coverings, or install a skylight to let more natural heat in.
One great product for heating the house is a thermostat-controlled space heater. The heater can activate when the room falls below a certain temperature. Space heaters can also be used in conjunction with your furnace to heat only the rooms you are using.
Calculating the Value
Automation in the home is designed to add convenience, and it does. But before installing any home automation system, calculate the amount of energy it uses — as well as the cost in dollars. Is the convenience truly worth the cost?
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About the Author
Mark Joseph is the owner of EfficientDiy.com, a website for environmentally responsible home repair. Mark has worked in residential and commercial construction for four years, and strives for a greener building initiative. He now crunches numbers and code in Columbus, OH working for a hospitality automation company.