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Home Automation Technology Helps Manage Energy Use

written by: Steve Graham•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 2/21/2010

Smart home automation systems can allow you to control your home energy usage through a computer anywhere in the world. The technology is also a part of the smart grid plan that is getting so much attention

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    Smart Homes

    Smart home automation is a growing industry and a popular trend for homeowners who want the latest technology. However, it can also be a great new tool for green computing and reducing energy costs by using your computer or any other computer in the world.

    Home automation design involves one centralized system to control the lights, temperature, music, televisions and security systems in a home. The system can be one panel in the home, and it can also be designed for remote Internet-based operation.

    A few clicks from any computer can turn down the heat and switch off all the lights, reducing energy bills and the carbon footprint of any home. Control4, a leading home automation technology company, estimates a three-bedroom home with a smart home automation system can save more than 850 pounds of CO2 emissions per year.

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    How to Have a Smart Home with Automation Technology

    Some basic examples of smart home automation technology include the following remote operations:

    • Turn on and off heat remotely. A programmable thermostat is a nice energy saver but it will only set a variety of temperatures that repeat each day regardless of actual energy needs. If you work late one night or head out to dinner with the family, the heat will still kick on and bring an empty house to the programmed evening temperature. Instead, just use the Internet interface to remain at the lower daytime temperature.

    • Kids sometimes aren't very diligent about turning off the lights. After you know they have left for school, make sure you are saving energy by turning off all the lights in the house from your Internet controls.

    • Shades can be automatically controlled or individually manipulated to maximize heat gain and loss depending on sunlight.

    • You can automatically turn off power strips for devices you are not using. This reduces vampire loads, the use of electric power in standby mode.

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    Future of Smart Homes

    Smart home automation may soon be spreading across the nation and around the world. The much-publicized smart grid requires home automation technology for maximum efficiency. Smart grid funding, including home automation research, is part of the federal stimulus plan and the energy bill.

    The idea of the smart grid is to reduce energy consumption by spreading the load and encouraging greater efficiency. It will be a system of two-way communication between homeowners and power providers, helping homeowners know how much power they are using during peak hours, when electricity is more expensive.

    Coal-fired power plants are built for a capacity that far exceeds typical daily needs. They are designed to produce enough power to meet the needs of consumers at peak hours on the hottest days of the year. The rest of the time, the extra capacity translates to inefficient production.

    The smart grid can help utilities vary pricing and encourage users to run appliances and devices in off-peak hours. For example, the smart home automation system's Internet interface system can control the dishwasher or clothes dryer to run during times with the lower electricity demand - typically between 1 and 5 a.m.