Can Home Automation Help Make My Home More Energy Efficient?

How Automation is Changing the Home and Real Estate IndustryAlthough home automation convenience may have been born out of entertainment ease, allowing homeowners to view favorite television shows at convenient times, and bringing home the fun of popular movies and great music, it has evolved into a practical and efficient way to center more control in the hands of homeowners—control over all lifestyle aspects. It's eco-friendly and cost-effective. Home automation is also a primary "want" for a growing number of buyers.

Yes, done right, home automation can help you cut your bills, live more comfortably, and consume less of the power that makes your home systems work, whether it's electricity, gas or even water. It's all good, and modern cost-saving tools don't have to cost a bundle.

When programmable thermostats were first introduced, it was with the intent that they would produce substantial energy savings as well as cost reductions. It didn't happen, primarily because too much human intervention was needed. Today, they no longer even bear an Energy Star label.

The Futuristic Character of Home Technology

Home automation is only one aspect of a smart home, but it is an important one.

With the growth of instant communication, interactive technology and e-commerce, it's little wonder that home automation has expanded to make life easier and better. But developing automation bears little resemblance to those older programmable thermostats and cycle-setting devices.

Future technology, rather than requiring you to pre-set or schedule your preferences, will anticipate needs and automatically make adjustments—to temperature settings, lighting, heating and security systems—tailored to your routine and lifestyle. Such automation now exists, and independent studies estimate that it results in up to 12 percent savings on utilities.

Connectivity makes it possible to integrate home systems, appliances and devices, to enable monitoring and management from the next room, from your office or from hundreds of miles away. The expectation is that the "home hub" of the future will allow more interactive adjustments. For instance, a smart dishwasher might gauge usage time to avoid peak hours, thereby lowering costs; the dishes would still be clean and ready for the next meal.

A refrigerator currently on the market can survey its own food stocks and send orders directly to the market, ready for you to pick up on the way back to your Germantown home. New oven concepts will usher in space-age capabilities for planning and cooking meals, and washers and dryers already "talk" to each other to communicate appropriate settings without turning an actual dial.

What It Costs to Save on Energy Costs

The level of home automation you want depends, at least partly, on how geeky you are. New technology can be quite expensive, but workable automation is also available for the do-it-yourselfer. Link everything to a central hub with its own "brain power," or add motion-activated lighting at your entry and garage driveway for a song. It's up to you!

DIY technology can be very reasonable and will offer peace of mind as well as reasonable energy savings. If, on the other hand, you are more interested in savings over the long-term, calculate the potential savings over a five or 10-year period, and weigh initial costs against the time it will take to realize a positive return on your initial investment. Take small steps, if necessary, to get immediate savings, and then add automation in other areas over time.

Luckily, no matter which path you follow, there are options, and all are worthwhile in terms of energy savings and comfort.

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