More than just a toy: home automation solutions that can make your house more sustainable
Unless you live in a country like Norway or Iceland, where geothermal and hydropower make electricity almost free, paying your utility bills can be quite painful. The average US household spends $2,060 per year for utility bills, and that’s not a small amount for most. Therefore, more and more people have started thinking about efficiency and ways to increase it in their homes.
Another reason is environmental: even if you can afford to burn the heaters at maximum power 24/7, it doesn’t mean that you should. Climate change has come a long way from being a scary story to being the harsh reality: it’s the reason behind many severe storms of the past years, it’s causing arctic ice to melt and increases global sea levels, and affects so many different spheres of life that it just can’t be ignored anymore. This is why more and more people are trying to reduce waste in their everyday life, including the resources needed to control the air temperature or illumination level in their house.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one has to replace all the lights with candles, throw away the TV and wear a winter coat inside. After all, we live in the 21st century, and scientific progress has come quite far in attempts to make our usual activities much more efficient. There’s also plenty of solutions that can be easily installed in every house to help reduce consumption - nowadays, those solutions are mostly automated and integrated with smartphones, voice assistants, and smart home systems. Just 10 years ago, that sentence would have sounded like Sci-Fi and would have cost a fortune. These days, with a budget of just $200 one can choose from a variety of different cool smart devices, all doing different things but all working to improve resource use.
And one of the simplest, cheapest, and therefore - best examples are automated shades. A vast majority of houses have something that covers windows: curtains, shades or blinds, venetian blinds, and all other technical solutions that serve one goal: let the light in when you want it in, and prevent it from getting in when you don’t need it. As simple as they are, these things are actually helping you use resources in a more efficient way and save money on utilities. As the US Department of Energy states, in wintertime, about 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through windows. In cooling seasons, 76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat.
But running around your house and managing blinds every 20 minutes is no fun. It can be done manually when you have a small flat, but if you’re lucky enough to have a big house with huge windows, this would be a real challenge. And naturally, the bigger your house is and the more windows you have, the more heat you’ll lose in the cold season and the more money you’ll spend on cooling on a typical hot summer day.
And here comes the game-changer: smart device that helps you to automate your blinds! As ridiculous as it sounds, there are dozens of such devices on the market - some are cheaper, some are more expensive, some are pre-installed with a certain type of shades and some are retro-fit and can work with basically any existing blinds. The main thing, however, is integration with smart home systems and ability to adjust them to a weather change. With automation the windows can be set up to heat the house on a cold winter day while nobody is home and the sun is out. Or they can be configured to keep the sun out during sunny summer days.
And some of the devices can be managed with Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, so once you set them up, all you need to do is give a voice command. In addition, you can group such devices and control them all together. Now, instead of going all around the house to put those blinds down when it’s burning hell outside, you can simply say: “Siri, close all my blinds”. How cool is that?
And the greatest thing is availability. Usually a device like that can be had for less than $200. Statistics show that after just 6 months of use you will have saved more on your utilities than you spent on the device. Some of those devices are super-easy to install - they’re mounted to the wall with tape, and you don’t even have to drill into your walls. Living in a rented space - just take the devices with you when you have to move.
This is just an example of how modern technology can help you solve a few problems at once and make your life easier. To experience all this, you don’t have to be a tech-wizard or learn to code, you don’t have to be a Tony Stark-style billionaire. These devices are a part of the new reality. Everyone can make their home a bit smarter - and actually benefit from it. So, what are you waiting for?