Home automation contributes to Texas energy efficiency

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By Terri Williams
For business

Home automation can lead to savings on monthly energy bills.

Home automation can provide convenience and safety by remotely locking and unlocking doors and turning on security alarms. However, in Texas, the second largest state in the U.S., home automation also provides an additional benefit: energy efficiency. Texas leads the nation in total energy consumption, so the opportunity to save energy is welcomed.

Here are some of the ways that home automation can contribute to energy efficiency.

Lighting

“Smart lighting can not only help make your life easier, but also offer energy efficiency benefits,” says Mike Deschamps, US product marketing director at Philips Hue at Signify. “For example, if you forget to leave the lights on when you leave for work, you can turn them off remotely using the Philips Hue app on your smartphone.”

Also, homeowners who don’t like coming home to a dark house won’t need to leave the lights on all day. Deschamps explains, “With smart sensors like an indoor motion or outdoor sensor, you can have your lights automatically turn on when you walk into a room or when movement is detected.”

Deschamps says these smart sensors can help save energy in two ways: they turn off lights when there’s been no movement for a certain period of time and a room appears to be vacant. “Also, by detecting the level of daylight, the lights do not turn on until you need them.”

Laundry

Laundry is certainly a tedious chore, but home automation can at least make it more energy efficient. How many times has someone put clothes in the washing machine and forgotten about them? And after a while, those clothes need to be washed again. However, some washing machines, like the LG smart washers, allow consumers to receive status updates on smartphones to let them know when the washer has completed a cycle. And when a consumer loads a smart washing machine, it automatically senses the load size and makes adjustments as necessary to ensure they don’t use more water than what is needed.

Some smart dryers have sensor dry technology that gauges the moisture levels when the load is drying, and then they automatically adjust the drying time.

For homeowners who are tired of shouting “close the refrigerator” at their housemates all day, an Instaview refrigerator lets them see what’s inside without ever opening the door. These refrigerators have a tinted glass panel, and when a person knocks on the panel twice, a light comes on, showing the refrigerators contents without letting the cold air out. And there are smartphone apps that will send notifications when someone has left the refrigerator door open. Homeowners can also use the app to remotely adjust temperatures in the refrigerator and freezer.

In addition, the time it takes to cook dinner can be cut in half with Flex Duo ranges with include 2 doors. This allows home chefs to cook two meals at two different temperatures and even set and control the temperature for each, with a smartphone. From preheating the oven to adjusting the cooking time to turning the oven off, homeowners can prepare food faster and save energy.

Heating and cooling

No one likes to walk into a home that’s too cold or too hot. However, running the HVAC system while no one is home wastes energy and money. Programmable thermostats allow homeowners to determine when they want to turn on the air or heat. This allows energy consumers to leave the system off while at work and turn it on before they arrive home so the house will be at the desired temperature.

Some thermostats, like Nest, learn energy consumption patterns and the desired thermostat settings throughout the day. These smart thermostats program themselves and creates a schedule based on an individual’s habits. And by using temperature sensors in various rooms, homeowners can ensure certain rooms in the house are the ideal temperature.

According to a Nest Thermostats whitepaper, these thermostats save 10% to 12% on heating each year, and 15% in cooling costs. That amounts to an estimated savings of $131 to $145 a year. And in Texas, where the AC is used for more months out of the year, the savings can be significantly higher.

Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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