Many studies have shown that the residential sector is one of the largest in energy consumption and therefore the resultant greenhouse gas emissions.
This especially rings true for countries where heating forms a large component of the energy demand matrix.
It’s no wonder that in recent years there’s been a global shift to improve energy efficiency on the homefront, literally speaking of course!
Different aspects of the home environment have been targeted. Think LED lighting as a perfect example, or improved insulation standards that decrease the requirement for cooling and heating loads.
In many countries, governments have set out minimum energy efficiency standards for new residential building plans.
Homeowners are also investing in rooftop solar PV as a way of reducing their energy demands. The increasing costs of energy have also played a role in the increase of solar PV popularity amongst homeowners.
A new catchphrase in the industry is the “smart” home.
What is a smart home?
Introduction to the Smart Home
Nowadays we are hearing a lot about ‘smart’, be it smart cities, smart grids, smart buildings or smart homes.
The idea behind the smart revolution is developing an interconnected communication network with everything that we use and operate, formulating a network of connected electronic devices that can be operated more efficiently through AI software.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will be the major technology behind the rollout of this smart technology.
In fact, we are not really efficient when it comes to controlling equipment, but by using intelligent software, efficiency gains can be improved and human error removed.
A recent study conducted on the opportunity of energy efficiency improvements showed that out of all the opportunities, operational control improvements yield the most energy savings.
We can reduce a fair amount of energy wastage through the implementation of smart technology such as IoT.
Now a smart home is no different.
A smart home is a home with an internal communication network that digitally connects your appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine, AC unit, heater, etc.
This communication network allows you to control, monitor and access these appliances remotely.
Many smart home technologies use smartphone apps to manage your home, too.
Google and Apple have both jumped on the smart home revolution by providing a personal AI voice assistant.
The job of this software is to effectively manage your home appliances more efficiently. Think of it as your own personal butler or PA that lives in your tablet, smartphone or another inter-connected device.
Many different types of smart home technologies are out on the market and more are being developed all the time.
Here we look at four popular smart home technologies that are available on the market now.
The name is certainly catchy and it’s an Australian startup too.
Energy is somewhat a mystery force. We know it’s there but we don’t see it, nor do we know where it all goes.
This is especially true when it comes to managing our household energy consumption bills.
This is where Wattcost comes in.
Wattcost offers an intelligent home energy monitoring system that lets you know exactly where your electricity is going and how much each appliance is costing you every month in energy usage.
Their monitoring system also provides real-time notifications through its smartphone app.
Using sophisticated energy data analysis algorithms, the software can even advise on actions to take that will reduce energy consumption at home.
Based on your energy consumption patterns, Wattcost can advise on the optimal tariff rate you should be on and even allows you to switch to it with ease. All of this can be done through their smartphone app.
Gone out and forgot you left an appliance on? No sweat! Wattcost will send you a real notification that you left something on.
If you have a rooftop solar array installed, their nifty My Solar Home solution will maximise the clean energy produced by your solar PV system.
How does it do this?
The monitoring system tracks your solar performance in real time, then it advises when to use your home appliances to maximise self-consumption and minimise energy usage from the grid.
The Sense Energy Monitor developed by US startup Sense is an easy to install sophisticated smart energy monitoring system. Designed for the home environment, it can be installed in a matter of minutes with a limited amount of wiring.
Once switched on it goes straight to work. Each appliance that consumes energy has its own unique voice signature that distinguishes it from other appliances. Over time, the AI software is able to distinguish between the different types of appliances and learn the home’s energy consumption patterns.
The system can then identify where energy is being wasted and make recommendations where to reduce energy wastage.
You can monitor your whole household via its propriety smartphone app or through a web interface. Track and monitor your energy usage in real time, set yourself goals on how much energy you want to save and see how you’re progressing.
The Sense Solar is useful for solar PV owners as well: the solution tracks your solar production in real-time and compares it with your energy consumption.
This feature allows you to maximise the amount of energy your solar PV system is producing.
The Sense Energy Monitor is able to integrate into other existing smart home technologies such as Amazon’s personal smart home assistant Alexa.
The Sense Energy Monitor uses the IFTTT protocol to communicate with other household appliances. IFTTT is fast becoming the international standard protocol that allows applications and devices to talk to each other in this increasingly interconnected digital world.
3. Carbon Track
Keeping it local again, Carbon Track is another homegrown Australian startup.
Specialising in developing energy management technology, they have developed their own energy monitoring system. Their system works with a number of different smart home devices, Google Home is one example.
The brains behind everything is their smart hub. This product connects and controls all smart devices in the network of connected devices in the home environment.
Setting up is easy as 1, 2, 3 using the plug and play functionality.
The hub is controlled and monitored through their smartphone app. One can control home appliances by plugging them into Carbon Track’s unique smart plug. The smart plug then feeds valuable data to the hub and this data is used to determine where energy is being wasted.
You can also switch appliances on and off remotely through the smartphone app or web interface.
This can come in handy if you are away on holiday and wish to switch the lights on during the evening for security purposes and switch them off during the day. You can even schedule the lamps to switch on and off.
Air conditioning is a major energy hog but by using Carbon Track’s Climate Command you can control your AC unit remotely. Switch it on before leaving work to enjoy your desired temperature when you arrive home.
The dashboard app allows you to track your energy usage in real-time and see where it’s being used. It will also allow you to compare monthly energy usage against utility bills.
Carbon Track’s smart hub also works with a number of smart door locks. Through the Carbon Track app, you can lock and unlock doors remotely.
This certainly comes in handy when you are at work and the kids need to get into the house, or you need to open the door for a plumber - or if you happen to lose your keys!
Ecoisme is a London-based startup and almost certainly a new kid on the block as the company was founded recently, in 2013. With the Ecoisme Home Energy Monitor, up to 15% in energy costs can be saved.
The Ecoisme is a sleek wall-mounted good-looking white box. Connect it to your mains supply and monitor your power usage in real-time.
The energy monitor uses machine learning algorithms, analyses user behaviour and measures active and reactive power. The system also integrates easily into other IoT solutions.
It turns all your home appliances into smart, energy efficient devices.
You can monitor your energy consumption and compare it against the previous week's data.
The solution can also integrate a solar PV system by tracking the solar power production and advising if you have exhausted all your solar power, or if you have too many appliances on. It will let you know how much excess clean energy you have to feed into the grid.
The monitoring system has enough intelligence built into it that it’s even able to inform you when an appliance is about to go faulty. All energy monitoring data is portrayed in a clean easy graphical interface accessible via a smartphone app, or through a web interface.
Buildings account for a large proportion of global energy demand and studies have shown that residential buildings account for a large proportion of this energy demand and therefore, global greenhouse gas emissions.
Beset by rising energy costs homeowners are increasingly moving to rooftop solar PV.
Smart homes are also an increasing trend, with the main goals of reducing energy costs and maximising solar power usage for home appliances.
Smart energy monitoring systems are key in the smart revolution to develop home environments that digitally connect devices such as appliances.
Using sophisticated software that integrates intelligent data analysis through AI these systems can establish appliance types and energy usage patterns, advising homeowners on energy usage patterns and how to decrease energy costs.
Many of these systems are cloud-based and able to integrate into other smart home technologies such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
These intelligent energy monitoring systems also offer homeowners the ability to control many home appliances remotely through smartphone apps.
Digitally connecting your appliances through the internet opens up a whole new realm of ways to improve energy efficiency in the home environment and maximise solar PV energy production usage.
If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!
Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.
Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.
Photo credit: Ecoisme, Carbon Track, Sense, Wattcost