Home Automation Ideas: 5 Ways to Cut Energy Costs

In the modern age, we have all become much more aware of our impact on the environment and planet we live on and home automation ideas are on the mind of many.

With consistent advancements in technology, we are able to see how much energy we are using in our daily lives, and make strides in cutting these costs and to go some way in reducing impact of our high usage, significantly.

From a young age, many have the principle of conservation instilled in to them: don’t leave lights on when you’re not in the room, and turn down the heating when you leave your house.

However, today’s technology gives us the edge, allowing us to cut down our energy costs, whilst being “tech savvy”.

Of course, ensuring you manually turn down the systems in your home is one way to cut costs, but it is not necessarily the most efficient way, and certainly not the most time friendly for the busy lives we all lead.

Home automation devices have been designed to build the gap in the market for control over home devices that used to require someone to be there to operate them.

Gone are the days of rushing home when you’ve forgotten to adjust your heating, now you can simply monitor your energy use from the comfort of your work desk, or even whilst you’re on the train.

As well as enabling you to control your devices from a far, home automation systems provide users with the ability to see what devices cost them the most money.

Such devices provide real time access to usage information, enabling individuals to draw up a comprehensive plan of where savings can be made.

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There are a wide variety of home automation systems that can help cut energy costs, these include:


Smart Thermostats

In years that have passed, programable thermostats seemed like the answer to cutting energy costs, and controlling the temperature of a home, even when no one was there to operate the dial.

The idea was that individuals could programme what temperature they would like their home to be, and at what time the temperature to be adjusted, before they left their home.

Such programable thermostats were said to be able to give users more control over their home, even when it wasn’t occupied, providing maximum comfort and supposedly energy efficiency.

However, these devices were found to only reducing energy use by 6.2%. Perhaps what may be worse is that 53% of the installed programmable thermostats were not being used as they were intended.

It was found that many devices were placed on “hold” mode, meaning their original functionality was lost, and they were behaving just like a manual model.

The results such systems demonstrated were not in line with estimated predictions and engineers hopes for the device, and in 2009, the EPA decided to completely remove is ENERGY-STAR rating for these programable thermostats.

However, in recent years, technology has continued to advance considerably, and that’s where smart thermostats and HVAC control systems come in.

To take the burden of having to manually programme your air conditioning away, Smart Thermostats can detect whether or not you are in a room, and can even be controlled remotely, giving you the ability to track how much energy you are using and what most of your energy consumption is taken by.

Estimates on smart thermostats show that residents could potentially save around £108 a year.

What’s more, if you live in an area that fluctuates in temperature with extreme highs and lows, you may see an even more dramatic increase in your energy bills.

The most popular Smart Thermostats include:

Heat Genius: The accredited website, Trusted Reviews, give Heat Genius systems a 4 and half star rating, with an overall score of 9 out 10.

They state “The combination of zoned TRVs, movement sensors and genuinely intelligent software makes Heat Genius the most comprehensive smart heating system we’ve used to date.”

As with most thermostats, Heat Genius comes complete with three parts: The Genius hub, which provides the entire system with internet access, via a wired connection to the back of your router, and a wireless thermostat, which communicates with the boiler controller for maximum efficiency.

Honeywell evohome: Once again, Trusted Reviews gave the comprehensive system a strong 9 out 10, calling it “the Rolls Royce of smart thermostats”.

They website goes on to say “it is without doubt the most comprehensive and accurate system we have seen”.

Reputable website, Expert Reviews describe the system as “A superbly-flexible, brilliant room-by-room heating system”, stating that “There’s no doubting that the Evohome outsmarts the smart thermostats”.

Further to this, Pocket-lint recognise the next step Honeywell have taken with the introduction of this system, stating: “Honeywell evohome is a very clever heating system upgrade, there’s no doubt about it.”

The Honeywell evohome lets individuals use multiple temperature sensing devices, without disrupting the original pipework, décor or fixtures and fittings.

The idea of having a “smart home” appeals to those that are both “tech savvy” and those that simply want to streamline their outgoing bills, and make their home more energy efficient.

2fd98baThe Honeywell evohome comes complete with an accurate touch screen system, appealing to those that enjoy using sleek and modern designs.

The visual appeal and proven results of smart thermostats speak for themselves, and such home automation systems are among the most popular items for many that want to test what home automation can do for them, without investing in a complete home control system.


Zone Based Thermostats

However big your home is, the chances are, you spend the majority of your time in just one area.

In fact, the larger your home is, the more likely you are to keep all of your frequently used items in one section if the house, making for greater ease of use.

Heating systems generally turn on heaters throughout the entire house, whether anybody is frequenting that room or not.

However, most of that energy will go to waste. Zone based thermostats allow users to divide their home up in to specific zones, ensuring rooms are not being heated or cooled unnecessarily.

Zone based thermostats work with the use of motion sensors to detect when a room is in use, decreasing the amount of energy wasted.

Estimates suggest that homeowners could save between 14-16% on their energy bills.

Of course, alongside the significant savings that could be made with the employment of a zone based thermostat, these clever home automation ideas can solve the age-old dispute that occurs over the temperature of a home.

By heating up one room and leaving another cool, such innovative home automation ideas cater to the needs of all those in your home, negating the need for the thermostat to be constantly adjusted.

By leaving your thermostat at one steady level you can benefit from:

  • Steady energy bills
  • A stable home temperature
  • Efficiency – no need to manually adjust temperature controls

Time Saving

We’ve all had those days where no matter how hard you try, your clock seems to be ticking away at the speed of light, and your to do list doesn’t seem to be going down.

The increased pressure that such busy mornings bring often mean something is forgotten.

Have you fed the dog?

Did you remember to close your window?

And what about the heating, is that still belting out?

With a zone based thermostat, you can not only decide in what room your heating and cooling systems will work in, you can also schedule when you would such devices to switch on an off.

Home automation ideas that mean you no longer need to occupy your home to be able to control it.

automated-door-locksSmart home features have been designed with efficiency in mind, and what could more efficient than not only deciding what room will be heated, but at what times such systems will begin working, and what times they will switch off?


Lighting Controls

We’ve all seen those old superhero movies that depict the protagonist using hi-tech systems to control the lighting of their home with one flippant action.

However, such systems are no longer a product of the imagination.

Home automation ideas have made it possible for us to control the light systems of our homes, without using manual switches to control them.

Did you know that lighting makes up 11% of all energy use, ranking it second behind heating and cooling systems?

That’s right, the seemingly insignificant lights we leave on as we exit a room, and the outside lights we don’t even see, but just use for aesthetics, can really ramp up the amount of money we shell out in energy bills.

The International Dark Sky Association estimates that around a third of the light we use is unnecessary, meaning big money could be saved by switching off lights in unused spaces, or lamps that make little difference to the lightness of a room.

However, with our busy lives and ever hectic schedules, sometimes switching off lights as we exit a room is the least of our concerns, particularly if the light isn’t making too much difference to the overall visibility in the room.

This is where smart occupancy sensors can come in.

Motion sensors are not new technology, and have been around for over 30 years, a great length of time, considering how quickly advancements in technology take place.

However, further developments in sensor technology, include the use of optics, ensuring greater accuracy when sensing activity in a space.

Such advancements are great for domestic use, where rooms are constantly in and out of use, helping to drive down lighting costs significantly.


Added Security

As well as increasing energy efficiency, home automation lighting controls can provide an extra layer of security to your home.

Whether you want to deter intruders with the use of light, or ensure those that come home in the dark have the lighting they need to get in safely, automated lighting controls can be the aid for you.

Such home automation ideas allow you to adjust the time your lights come on, depending on the time at which the sun starts to disappear and the natural light fades.


Aesthetics

As well as increased safety, the lighting you opt for in your home can make a great difference to the look and feel of the space you have available.

The lighting systems you incorporate in to your home will largely depend on your budget.

However, many home automation lighting systems allow the user to create a set of regularly used commands and then make use of these pre-set lighting scenes with easy, singular commands, setting a room’s lighting to the perfect levels.

Whether you are watching the television, reading or entertaining, easy, self-adjusting lighting controls can make a staggering difference to both the strain on your eyes and the atmosphere of the room, allowing for great comfort and efficiency when entertaining.


Smart Strips

If you live in a shared house with a family member or friend, you’ve most likely had a conversation that goes something like “make sure you turn that off, it uses a lot of electricity”.

You might think that all electronic devices use the same amount of energy, however, the truth is that some devices were created more energy hungry than others, even consuming energy when they are not in use and placed on standby mode.

If you turn off all lights in the modern home, you are likely to see a mass of green or red LED lights flickering back at you, under cabinets and on shelves.

smart power stripsAll of these small lights are signals that these devices are using energy, even when they are not being utilised.

Such energy vampires can drive up the cost of your bills, but the great news is that these devices can be tamed by the use of Smart Strips.

Home automation ideas are forever advancing and many Smart Strips can come complete with motion detectors that shut off all electronics when you are not in the room.

Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggests that installing Smart Strips can result in savings of around £160 a year. For a relatively cheap investment, Smart Strips could prove a great money saver for your home.

Smart strips are manufactured by a wide range of well-known technology specialists and as such as can be purchased from a great deal of direct or indirect suppliers online and in store.


Reviews

Thebalance.com rate Smart Strips highly, stating, “The Smart Strip power strip, an energy-saving, high-powered surge protector, is a good investment for those looking to reduce their electric bill and impact on the environment.”

With an estimated life span of around twenty years, depending on the Smart Strip you purchase, these non-invasive energy controllers can prove to be a great investment for many homes and lifestyles.


Solar Powered Products

When you think of solar powered products, you commonly think of large panels that cover a great majority of the roof space you have suitable on your home.

However, if you don’t want to dive straight in with solar energy, you can begin with well-designed solar lights for a wide range of outdoor uses, including, porches and patios.

In the past, the upfront costs associated with installing solar panels took several years to recuperate, meaning many home owners were put off investing in such products to reduce their energy bills.

A standard set of solar panels with installation can cost between £6,00 to £9,000.

However, the increase in the popularity of these products means that these products are now less of a novelty, and many companies are now providing affordable solar powered technology for the whole home.

Such affordable ways to invest mean that savings can begin taking place straight away.

Solar products are said to reduce standard utility bills by around 20-30%, making a great contribution to reducing not only how much energy you use, but also your outgoing electrical expenses.


How do Solar Products Work?

Standard roof solar panels work to reduce your electricity bills by allowing photons (particles of light) to work with electrons, free from atoms to generate a clean flow of electricity.

It is said that the sun transmits more energy to the earth in an hour than the entire world uses in a year.

Therefore, the limitless amount of electricity that can be generated from solar panels means the produced energy is regarded as “clean”.

Further to this, the suns energy is a great deal more dependable, as unlike fossil fuels, the sun’s energy is unlimited.


What Solar Panels Should I Invest in?

It is well known that solar panels are not a cheap investment, and must be considered thoroughly before being purchased.

However, did you know that you can invest solar panels for free, by taking part in the “free solar panel scheme”?

So what is this scheme?

Under the solar panel scheme, the user keeps the electricity generated by the solar panels, and the installer keeps the Feed-in-Tariff payments.

Investing in home automation ideas can not only make your home more efficient, but can also provide the comfort and sense of luxury that many of us crave in the modern age, but how should you invest in your solar panels?


Buying Outright

  • You have the funds to cover the upfront costs that can be incurred.
  • You would like to earn money on the excess energy you can generate.
  • You are invested in generating long term savings on your outgoing energy bills –

Remember, many people invested in solar panels to protect themselves against the future rise in energy prices. The estimated likelihood that such prices will only increase. Th higher the prices, the more money you could end up saving yourself


Investing in the Free Solar Panel Scheme

You should consider investing in the free solar panel scheme, rather than purchasing outright if:

  • You do not have the necessary funds to invest in buying solar panels outright.
  • You are not eligible to secure a specialist solar panel loan for the project. – Remember, when you invest in a loan, you need to consider the length of term of your repayments, and how much expense each month this will set you back. Be sure to take in to account, your future plans too! Any extra expenses could really change your finances and the money you have available each month.
  • You are content with only making savings on your electricity bill. – Remember, you will not make any money from a Feed-in-Tariff with such free solar panel schemes, you will only save on your electricity bill.
  • You are invested in making long term savings on your energy bills. – Remember, energy prices are said to keep increasing with time, the higher the rise, the more you will save
  • You are anxious about keeping up with the costs that come along with the maintenance of your solar panels. – Under the free solar panel scheme, maintenance of the panels is included.

Home Automation Ideas: Making Your Investment

The term “smart home” can often lead individuals to conjure up thoughts of extravagant technological devices that cost a great to deal to purchase and install. However, the ever growing advancement in wireless technology means that more and more companies are supplying such products, meaning these systems are a lot more readily available than you may first think.

Investing in home automation does not necessarily mean wiring each feature of your home to a control panel, and you can choose what systems of your home are controlled through such technology and what isn’t, giving you greater flexibility in how you run your home, and how you consume energy.

Determined to completely Automate his house, Ken is creating blogs and trying to help others reach the same goal. Passionate about saving energy, doing what he can to help the planet and tell everyone how they can get involved too.

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