How can home automation increase a building’s energy efficiency?

Home automation ; energy savings ; electrical efficiency ; environment ; electronic equipmentsWith the growth of new technologies, home automation systems can improve integrated housing management schemes. More than simply piling up domestic robots, current technologies strive to adapt to the users’ way of life. As a matter of fact, what do these improvements consist of in terms of energy efficiency?

Transform your home into a “communicating unit”

Home automation systems can be divided into three subcategories. The broadband over power line (BPL) option is the simplest: the system is connected to the existing electric network, which supplies information to it (e.g. electricity consumption of a certain piece of equipment). BPL has been criticized mainly for its low reliability and high costs.

The option of specific wiring is often recommended by professionals. All external connections (to the electricity grid, fibre-optic network…) are centralized into a dispatching frame, to which domestic distribution channels are then connected. The efficiency of such a system is highly contingent on the quality of wiring.

Finally, wireless home automation systems include various technologies, usually divided into infrared (IR) and radio frequency (RF). RF systems use diverse communication protocols, such as Zigbee, Wi-fi or Bluetooth. Wireless systems are the easiest to install, but there are sometimes difficult to set up. All these systems can either be used separately for different pieces of domestic equipment or apply to all home appliances.

Home automation enables equipment to be switched on only when actually in use

Automated domestic lighting generally includes three pieces of equipment:

  • Sensors (temperature sensors, ambient thermostats…)
  • Home-automation software (interface)
  • Remote control (control system)

The first home automation installations essentially enabled lights to switch on and off according to a programmed schedule. Now it is possible to optimally adjust lighting so that it only switches on when somebody enters the room.

Similarly, recent technologies significantly improve integrated heating systems. For instance, air-conditioning can be turned off when sensors inform the home automation central that a window is open. To sum up, home automation is about managing, coordinating and anticipating countless parameters without human intervention.

More electronic equipment will soon cease to mean more energy consumption

The central computer also manages appliances such as the refrigerator, freezer, television, boiler, dishwasher, washing machine, coffee machine… in order to optimize operations (shutting off at certain hours, automated switching on and off). However, home automation requires the installation of many new appliances. It is reasonable then to wonder whether it is really a good investment in environmental terms. The answer is certainly yes: as far as current technology is concerned, new expenditures should be largely covered by energy savings and by the extended lifetime of all domestic appliances, which will be used more moderately.

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