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Increase Your Home's Efficiency with these Home Automation Tips

Increase Home Efficiency with these Home Automation Tips

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
May 23, 2021

Designing a healthy, energy-efficient, and low-impact home is often considered the work of architects and building contractors. However, how the house is inhabited will be the main determining factor of how sustainable it is. Homes that incorporate a sound building envelope, triple-pane windows, a heat pump, high-efficiency insulation, and other elements designed to increase the thermal performance will offer the opportunity to reduce the carbon emissions of a home radically. The operational sustainability of the house, on the other hand, refers to how homeowners behave and take advantage of those sustainability features. Leaving a window open during the middle of winter, for example, will compromise the energy efficiency of even the best Passive House.

Home automation products can make it easier for homeowners to benefit from the sustainability features designed into the buildings they inhabit. Below, we take an in-depth look at some of the best advances in home automation and how these can help improve your home's energy efficiency and thermal performance.

Smart Home Graphic

What is Home Automation?

Home automation refers to the use of connected systems to manage and control certain functions in your home. In the simplest of cases, home automation can refer to isolated programmable devices such as a smart thermostat that controls the temperature inside your house. As automation technology and the Internet of Things advances, home automation is more likely to allow homeowners to remotely control the vast majority of home functions of their home.

Home automation systems are routinely connected to a smartphone or another mobile device. This connection allows people to control what goes on in their homes even when they're at work or away on vacation. Today, home automation systems work with a wide range of appliances, electrical outletsswitches, heating and cooling systems, sprinkler systems, windows and blinds, doors, lockssurveillance camerassmoke detectors, and much more.

As these technologies have progressed, the "smart" home is increasingly affordable. This increased affordability is due to the cost-effectiveness of the home automation systems themselves and the energy savings that these technologies can offer.

Smart Home

How Does Home Automation Contribute to the Sustainable Home?

A home automation system can allow you to monitor the temperature outside your home and adjust your thermostat accordingly. Simultaneously it can set timers that will open and close your window shades to either passively cool or heat your home. These steps can go a long way in helping to reduce your monthly heating and cooling expenses.

The smart home with a complete array of home automation technologies allows these different systems to communicate. For example, it is entirely possible to program your home automation systems to close the blinds when the temperature registered by your thermostat reaches a certain threshold. Through configuring a variety of home operational actions to happen regularly throughout the day and the seasons of the year, homeowners can take full advantage of the sustainability features of their homes.

My Smart Blinds
Photo Credit: My Smart Blinds

How Can Automated Blinds Save Energy?

An architect can design your home to capture and store the sun's heat through passive solar design. However, suppose you have heavy blinds or curtains over those windows to offer some needed privacy at night. In that case, you will significantly reduce your home's passive solar heating capacity if you forget to open the blinds before rushing out the door to work in the morning.

MySmartBlinds is one company offering an automation kit that will allow you to modify your existing window blinds to increase your energy savings. This automation kit can work with your smart home system or can operate independently. The app allows you to view and control all of the rooms in your home and decide between preferred temperature settings. You can also set daily and weekly schedules and use a sun-tracking feature to maintain similar light levels as the season's change. With prices starting at $270, these smart blinds are a helpful addition to an automated home. They will pay for themselves through reduced energy bills and don't require you to purchase a separate set of blinds. For more options, see Rise's article on Automated Window Shades.

Hunter Smart Fan
Hunter Smart Fan. Photo Credit: Hunter

How Does Ceiling Fan Automation Improve Home Comfort?

There is nothing worse than returning after a long trip to a home that is stuffy due to poor ventilation. Automated fans could help you avoid this hassle with the ability to program ceiling fans. When placed in strategic areas of the home, you can set them to automatically turn on and off at specific times during the day or when temperatures rise to a certain level. The smart fans offered by Hunter Fan even have sensors that will automatically turn on the light bulb on your ceiling fan when movement is detected.

Keen Smart Vent Starter Kit
Keen Smart Vent Starter Kit. Photo Credit: Keen

How Can Smart Vents Improve Energy Efficiency?

Automated vents are another way to increase your home's energy efficiency; these work hand-in-hand with programmable thermostats. Since almost no one takes the time and effort to individually close every vent in a room when it is empty, smart vents incorporate occupancy sensors that can detect when spaces are unoccupied. Thus, when no one is in a particular room, the vents are closed, and your HVAC system is not wasting energy cooling or heating a room that no one is occupying. This type of system is, in essence, a quick way to create a zoned HVAC system for your home.

Similarly, smart vents have thermometers that can regulate the airflow based on the temperature. The vents will automatically shut when the temperature of a room is too hot or too cold. Keen Zoning offers several smart vents for your home that can create up to 8 degrees of difference in temperature between occupied and unoccupied rooms in your home. They offer room-by-room options or a whole-home system called Ecovent. Single smart vents start at $99.99, and you can add a temperature sensor for $40. Whole-home Ecovent systems include vents, sensors, a hub, and a Sensi smart thermostat and start at about $1,200.

Rheem ProTerra
ProTerra Heat Pump Hot Water Heater with EcoNet App. Photo Credit: Rheem

How Does Hot Water Heating Automation Save Energy?

After HVAC systems, the water heater in your basement is typically the second most energy-intensive device in your home. Fortunately, new water heaters on the market today are incorporating home automation technology to help reduce energy demand. The Rheem Hybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heater, besides delivering hot water to the faucets and showerheads of your home, also has Wi-Fi-connected technology and a mobile app. The EcoNet app allows you to customize the temperature, set schedules, and vacation settings so that you're not heating water for weeks on end when nobody is home. This smart water heater also has a water sensor alert with an audible alarm to let you know if any leaks or pipe bursts occur. Prices on Rheem Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters currently start at around $1,200 at Home Depot. You can find details on the savings that heat pump water heaters can provide this handy Rise Guide.

Home Automation Seniors

Finding the right architect and construction crew to build you a sustainable home or do a major energy retrofit on an existing home is only the first part of living in a home that cares for your health, wealth, and the planet. Learning the art of living sustainably means discovering how to "use" your home to maximize the energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and environmental features it contains. Home automation systems can help you do just that.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-09-03T19:48:38+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.