Home automation is a great way to save energy. Home automation is a system that allows you to control electric and electronic devices in your home. Home automation systems can be basic, just controlling your lights on the scheduled basis or by remote control; to lavish controlling everything in the home including curtains, home theatre, and security. Every home automation systems can save electricity in two basic ways. One is that you can set schedules for lights and other electricity users to turn on and off. The other is using sensors and timers to monitor and control lights and such in the home. Either way, you'll save by not having lights and appliances turned when no one is using them.
Adding controls beyond the traditional on-off switch to your lighting can save both energy and effort. Making the change is also fairly simple. The most common residential lighting controls are occupancy sensors and photocells that lights on and off, dimmers that allow you to operate lamps at a lower wattage. Four types of sensors are available here:
Centralized control systems typically operate through your personal computer (PC). The PC allows you to create schedules and criteria for controlling devices and lighting in your home. The PC usually communicates with a base station through a serial communications line. Typically, all your customizations are stored on the PC, then downloaded to the base station. The base station then retains all the schedules and instructions and executes then to individual devices accordingly.
The base station sends commands to devices throughout the home either wirelessly using infrared or radio signals, or through your electrical wiring. The most popular home control system, X10 sends commands through your electrical wires.
Just about anything that you can plug in to the wall can be controlled this way. You can control incandescent and fluorescent lamps, fans, and appliances with these systems.
We have included these devices in this category because they have become very sophisticated today. For years, if you had a programmable thermostat, you could set timers that turn on and off your heating and cooling system at various times during the day. This is very helpful for going to work and coming home. You can turn the HV system down while you at work, and have it turn on 30 minutes before you arrive home after work or school. Today's thermostats are available with Internet access that allows you to program them from a web browser. Your utility company can also access it during peak electrical use in the hot summer afternoons to prevent blackouts. To top it off these are usually available for free from your local utility. They will even come and install them.
This kind of system is for the elite, unless you are a do it yourself person with high skill level. Whole house control systems have all the bells and whistles including curtain control, security systems with surveillance cameras and monitors, multiple remote controls, and can even cook your breakfast.
This type of house totally adapts to its environment and desired living conditions with the use of computers. Much experiementation is currently going on in the USA and Europe.
One project currently taking place now by a multi-disciplinary team at Virginia Tech University, is called lumenhaus. Using home automation, the lumenhous has many features that reduce energy use and enhance quality of life.