Be smart, save energy

Karen Chugg of Intelligent Abodes discusses how using smart home technology in your self-build can save energy

It was not that long ago that a smart home was considered aspirational but now, with all the latest products on the market, it is a possibility for everyone. But what does a smart home actually mean, how do you achieve it and is it worth the investment?

In a smart home you may have several apps to control a variety of activities or devices such as lighting, heating, curtains or blinds, music, TV, security systems and door entry. Alternatively, a smart home control solution brings everything together in one easy to control app on your phone, tablet or watch.

There are a variety of home control solutions available and in order to determine the ideal solution for you, it requires a decision about what you want to control, the level of control you want, your level of involvement in setting up the solution and crucially, your budget.

One of the things we love about home control solutions, like Vantage and RTi, is that they offer one step solutions – with the press of one button you can transform a room into your perfect relaxing environment, with dimmed lights, closed blinds, the TV switched on and even initiate the water feature in the fish tank!

So can app control of devices save you energy and more importantly money?

The answer to that question is yes, but the amount of money you save will depend on the system installed.

Not so dim

Traditional dimmer switches reduce the load to the light fitting across a resistor, so the energy is dissipated, rather than reduced. This means there are no energy savings, just a ‘hot’ dimmer switch. The introduction of the electronic dimmer from Lutron lighting control meant lighting control got smarter, regulating the energy to the light, meaning you save money. Principal application engineer at Lutron, Ian Rowbottom explains: “Dimming your lights even by 25 per cent saves nearly 20 per cent in energy consumption. Dimming them more, saves even more.”

Some of the best tips for saving energy with smart lighting control are:

  • Dimming extends the life of your light bulbs, and can provide even more of a saving with longer lasting LED bulbs. Every dimmer also automatically saves you 4-9 per cent in electricity – even when used at the highest lighting level – compared to a standard on/off switch.
  • Lighting control encourages you to really think about the lighting in your home. The engraved switch gives you the option of task lighting, such as for cooking, dining, watching TV. You select the light scene you want and when you move on to the next task you can change the lighting again, so you are less likely to use unwanted lights and turn them off.
  • Avoid lighting an empty room with motion sensors.
  • An ‘all off’ button at the front door or next to your bed means you never forget to turn the light off.
  • All types of light sources can be dimmed, including low energy sources – so that you get double savings.
  • Light sensors can be used to automatically adjust the brightness of the lights according to how much natural light is available in the room, so you maintain the perfect ambiance and reduce light consumption.

Intuitive heating

Heating control systems, like Nest and Heatmiser, respond intuitively so that heating is used efficiently when required and all without the need for re- programming, perfect for those who don’t have a regular pattern; if you get home late the heating will not be keeping an empty house warm, as it automatically reduces the heat when you are not at home.

Imagine having all rooms at an ideal temperature and being able to change settings instantly to suit your immediate needs; not only will you optimise family comfort, you will maximise your energy savings too.

Keep the warm in & the cold out

Using the latest technology, modern blind fabrics can diffuse light and absorb or deflect heat, allowing you to quickly adjust them to keep the warmth in during the winter, and in the summer manage heat gain. You can either programme your blinds or use them in combination with a heat sensor so that they automatically shut when the solar glare or heat is high.

Control saves you time

Smart home control gives you control at all time of the day whether home or away. For example, you can avoid waiting for deliveries or spending time collecting them from the depot – smart door entry systems can be managed with a phone or tablet, so when you get that call at work, advise them where to leave your parcel safely.

As well as enhancing our living environment, smart home control, particularly lighting, heating, blinds and curtains, can really help save energy and reduce bills. In other words, we use less electricity to light and heat our homes as we target our needs and reduce losses.

Case study

At a luxury penthouse in Devon we designed and developed a schematic that reflected the client’s wishes. They were looking for a complete home automation solution – lighting, blinds, audio-visual, networking, HVAC and security.

The clients travel frequently so it was important they could manage their home effectively while away, and make modifications in preparation for their return. To conserve energy, they can ‘power down’ certain equipment such as music systems and the TV when they go away, and power it back up on their way home. The lighting and blinds application provides a holiday setting which means the penthouse looks ‘lived in’ even when they’re away.

Security was also an important factor and CCTV, a door entry system and the lighting link to provide an integrated system. The penthouse features a lot of glass so they also required a heating/cooling system that would respond intuitively to maintain a constant temperature, regardless of the weather.

Karen Chugg is managing director of Intelligent Abodes