Actively managing energy use with electronic home integration can save money and conserve resources.
Here are some important strategies:
- Monitor and control heating/AC systems; set heating low (and AC high) when away; adjust setting remotely if plans or weather changes
- Adjust your lighting sources and levels to match the activity or mood; use occupancy sensors to turn off lights in rooms that are not currently being used.
- Schedule kitchen and laundry appliances to run when energy rates are low (where time-of-day rates are in force)
- Adjust motorized window coverings to optimize solar gain in the winter and reduce unwanted energy loss in the summer or when the sun isn’t shining
- Monitor gas and electric use in real time to help you household increase their awareness of energy usage and to promote conservation
Implemented correctly and used conscientiously, these features can easily save enough money to pay for themselves—often in as little as four years (depending on factors
like local energy costs and climate).
Home Energy Use
Space heating and cooling together account for 40% of the energy use in the average US home. This makes them prime targets for home energy savings.
- Here are some not-so-smart habits that are guaranteed to inflate heating/AC energy use and increase costs:
- Setting the thermostat too high in winter (try 68 degrees or lower), and too low in summer (78 degrees or higher is recommended)
- Failing to use a step-back thermostat, or failing to adjust it for day and night needs, or for when people are actually at home.
- Failing to close window coverings to insulate against unwanted heat (summer) or cold (winter), and open them to optimize solar gain
- Leaving windows open when it’s too cold or too warm outside
- Leaving a door or window open for a pet.
Other energy-wasting habits can increase operating costs and energy use for lighting, running appliances, hot water heating, as well as pool, spa, and TV. Electronic home integration can help you control this waste and save money— by automating the control functions, and by actively monitoring energy use to increase awareness among household members and encourage savings.
Local Climate and Energy Rates
Local seasonal temperatures have a big impact on energy use. Minnesotans need lots of energy for heating in winter; Floridians use plenty of power for summer cooling. In San Diego—not so much. Energy rates that differ from locale to locale further complicate the picture. Electrical energy is relatively cheap in the mountain states (where the “fuel” for hydroelectric power generation is river water plus gravity). California and Hawaii, in contrast, have some of the highest energy rates in the country—due, in part to the heavy use of natural gas to generate power. Where energy rates are high, energy conservation quickly translates into saved dollars, plus a short period to pay back the initial cost of installation. Where energy is cheap, cost savings from conservation will be smaller, and the payback time is longer.
Time of Day
Residential electrical power demand fluctuates significantly throughout the day. It is
lowest for the sleeping hours, peaks briefly for breakfast, then dips to moderate levels until late afternoon, when it climbs to a high plateau during the evening hours—as people return home for dinner, chores, and entertainment. Much of the energy in the US is still produced by coal-fired generators. They are relatively cheap to operate, but respond slowly to changes in demand. Peak demand is typically met with gas-fired turbine generators, which respond quickly, but are more expensive to run than coal-fire units. To help even out demand and reduce the need for high-cost gas fired electricity, producers sell power to industrial users at rates that are cheapest overnight, when residential use is lowest. Now that power companies have begun to install home smart meters, expect them to shift to a residential rate schedule that varies by the time of day. When this happens in your area, you can save money by running your power hungry electrical appliances—clothes drier, dish washer, oven, space heaters—overnight if feasible, when rates are likely to be lowest. In-home energy monitoring can help you pinpoint your own energy use patterns. And electronic home integration can schedule these tasks effortlessly, so you won’t waste any opportunity to save money and conserve energy.
Your Home’s Condition
Unless it is new, or has been upgraded to modern energy-efficiency standards in the last decade or so, a home can lose much heat (in winter) or gain much heat (in summer) through the walls, ceiling, windows, etc. Older, low-efficiency furnaces, air conditioning systems, and water heaters just make the matter worse. All of these conditions waste energy and add unneeded expense.
Installing energy-saving home integration features won’t change the local climate or energy rates. And they can only partially make up for the air leaks, low energy efficiency of furnaces (and air conditioners), or poor insulation values of an old house. But they do make optimizing energy use much easier (and cost-effective) to accomplish. Plus, many of these home integration features provide benefits beyond conservation. Lighting control, for example, also provides comfort, convenience, safety, enjoyment, and even support for special needs, while automated window coverings add convenience, safety, enjoyment, and enhanced privacy.
The Bottom Line
If you live in an area with severe winters and/or summers, and if your home is not up to the current energy standards, you probably should look at upgrading your home’s insulation, furnace, and/or air conditioning first, before investing in the new electronic technologies for energy conservation. Then you can call us to get a mix of practical and fun technology in an easy to use package.