In 1999 Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote Business @ the Speed of Thought, a highly prescient forecast of our future.
“In the future, portable digital devices will keep us constantly in touch with other systems and other people. And every-day devices such as water and electrical meters, security systems, and automobiles will be connected as well, reporting on their usage and status. Each of the applications of digital information is approaching an inflection point — the moment at which change in consumer use becomes sudden and massive. Together they will radically transform our lifestyles and the world of business.
Gates predicted we would have personal assistants who would help us coordinate much of our daily living.
“Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.”
These changes have all come about. Since the rapid rise of the smartphone, this level of control and connectivity has become ubiquitous.
Smartphones now dominate the way we communicate with people. Today they are command central for many technologies in our homes. Your smartphone is the user interface for everything you own. Simply by using your smartphone and associated apps and hardware, you can manage most of the systems in your home.
Most of the mechanical systems in your home such as heating and cooling, water heating, and plumbing have the ability to connect to the Internet of Things (IoT), allowing you to control them with your smartphone. Connectivity is the key to control — giving you the power to save money by saving energy and water consumption.
Further, there are additional add on technologies to provide voice control of all your IoT connected devices and systems. You can literally speak to your home and have it make adjustments to every feature that keeps you comfortable or entertained.
'Prykhodovt, Denys / Shutterstock.com'
There are now smart home technologies for:
- Door Locks to control access
- Home lighting
- Heating and cooling, including damper controls
- Grocery ordering via your refrigerator
- Opening and closing window coverings
- Monitoring energy consumption in your home
- Floor cleaning: Vacuuming and mopping
- Grass cutting: robot powered mowers
- Open and close garage doors when your car is near without you touching a control device.
Each of these products can be integrated into a home after it is built. However, you’re better off installing some of them when you’re building your home. But which technology should you choose? Let’s review available technology which can save money and help you live better.
Having your home built to allow smart home automation will help your home have a long life in the future. Most builders are wiring the homes they build with data cabling and electrical wiring to accommodate new technology. From entertainment, to lighting, to heating and cooling, many of your home’s features are going to be controlled via this network. Critical is to make sure you have data connections in every room, especially if you’re going to stream video, or audio in high quality. While technical, there are some essential things to know about having your home built with SmartHome wiring. Read more about this.
Built in new home security with digital cameras with infrared (see in the dark) monitoring are state of the art. Sensors monitor doors, windows, and the home’s perimeter. You can keep tabs on your security system from your smartphone from anywhere in the world.
Water, water, cut it off
Smart technology can protect your home from water damage due to leaking, or burst pipes. PipeBurstPro is one technology which will shut off water at the source, preventing interior home flooding.
BrainPipes is a new technology which monitors all your home’s pipes, faucets, toilets, and water-consuming appliances. This IoT connected tech detects pressure changes and leaks, reporting them to you in real time and shutting off the plumbing device and closing off the main water supply,
The days of universal use of water heaters with tanks are over. These days intelligent home buyers want tankless water heaters. These on-demand water heaters provide hot water when you need it. Old-fashioned water heaters held water at a constant temperature, consuming lots of energy while doing so. While not exactly new technology, tankless water heaters are one technology every home needs.
Even faucets have undergone an upgrade. Simply by waving your hand, your faucet will turn on, allowing you to clean up without making a mess of the tap handles. Touch-free faucets are useful in the kitchen, shop, garage, and the bathroom. Motion activated, these faucets allow you to use only the water you need, when you need it.
Even toilets have undergone a massive upgrade. These days touchless toilets which use only the amount of water required to adequately flush waste are available. Advanced toilets lift the seat for you on approach, flush automatically, and will not flush when clogged, preventing overflows. Top of the line toilets include bidet, dryers, seat warmers and are self-cleaning. Believe it or not, some also connect via bluetooth to play music.
Washers consume lots of water. In the last couple of years, smart washers have entered the market allowing you to save water. These washers weigh clothes, then add the right about of water based on the volume of wash to be done. They lack center post agitators, and use centrifugal force to spin most of the water out so clothes dry more quickly. The only downside to these water-saving washers is the long wash times, though some manufacturers are adding settings to shorten some cycles.
Heating and Cooling
Keeping your home appropriately warm or cool starts with the right amount of insulation, and efficient, leak-proof windows and doors. After that, getting the right amount of air where you need it to provide even temperatures is critical to every homeowner. New technology allows you to monitor your HVAC system, turn it on, off or adjust settings.
Learning thermostats monitor your waking, sleeping times, home and away times to keep your home’s temperature set within a range you determine. As with most of the tech we’ve discussed, your smartphone is your control panel for these devices.
The Nest Learning thermostat from Google was one of the early ones on the market. The Nest is a “thermostat that knows when you’re around, turns itself down when you’re away, and keeps things just how you like them.” It integrates with many smart home devices and packages and can be extended beyond keeping your home’s climate system adjusted.
The Ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat can, “address hot or cold areas of your home with a smarter wi-fi thermostat with room sensors.” Imagine, no more cold bedrooms!
We could write a book about all the innovations in HVAC systems. From geothermal heat pumps to the latest in traditional heat pumps, the choices are wide-ranging. Some systems recapture waste heat to enhance energy management in your home. Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) and energy recovery ventilation (ERV) offer a solution, bringing fresh air into your home without letting the heat escape.
New home builders are equipping homes with energy efficient choices. Buyers should evaluate the cost of their preferred system and their budgets to get units with a high SEER rating.
The U.S. Department of Energy states, “When buying an air conditioner, look for a model with a high efficiency. Central air conditioners are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less.”
It is also recommended by the DoE, that buyers look for units that have:
- A thermal expansion valve and a high-temperature rating (EER) greater than 11.6, for high-efficiency operation when the weather is at its hottest
- A variable speed air handler for new ventilation systems
- A unit that operates quietly
- A fan-only switch, so you can use the unit for nighttime ventilation to substantially reduce air-conditioning costs
- A filter check light to remind you to check the filter after a predetermined number of operating hours
- An automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off.
Matt Davis writes in Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News, “HVAC systems are increasingly communicating between the indoor and outdoor controls while also reducing heat loss and maximizing dehumidifying processes. The systems also run quieter and are easier to use with touch screen, programmable thermostats with multiple settings.”
Home Access and Entry
Smart home locks know who you are and let you in, while keeping others out.
Just as modern cars’ key fobs signal the car to unlock, your home’s entry can unlock on your approach simply through bluetooth communication with your phone. Schlage Sense locks are a good example of these.
Smart locks may also have geofencing to lock if you’re a certain distance from the home and all have a bypass allowing you to use a code to access the thome if you do not have your phone. As a third level of backup, these smart locks even can allow the use of a key. And they can hear people approach. New smart locks integrate with your home security system and alarm on the slightest vibration.
Some locks will notify you when people enter and leave, based on their unique keypad code. These types of locks allow you to know when the kids get home from school for example. Guests can be provided a code to let them in. Codes can be date or time restricted so your housekeeper can get in only on certain days and times. You can give your guests a date restricted code that expires after they leave, meaning you don’t have to go delete old codes.
Garage door openers
Smart sensing extends to garage doors too. These openers also use geofencing to limit opening to only those with the paired device. And using an app on your smartphone you can control your garage door from remote locations.
Ever want to know who's at the door without going to the door? Want to be alerted every time someone approaches your home? A doorbell camera can do precisely this. The latest ones are connected to your smartphone and your home automation system or home monitoring system. They can sense when someone approaches with motion activated sensors and record digital video. There are many on the market and you may want to discuss options with your builder.
Home lighting is one of the high tech smarthome areas that has expanded dramatically. Using LED lights integrated with sensors and smartphones, and Amazon Echo or Google Home you can turn lights on remotely or schedule them and voice command them. Home automation systems can control your lights from a central command app. There are even lights which now learn your patterns just as the Nest Thermostat does, allowing your home to turn on lights based on your routines. You will need to determine what you prefer and which rooms you may want smart lights in. There can be some price options and tech, and you might only need a few key rooms to be set up with smart lights.
Homeowners in charge
The bottomline is that the world of home automation and smart home technology is exploding. The technology exists to connect and command just about every device or system you have. The only limits are your budget, and actual need to have these devices. Do your homework, read more about the systems and services and consult your builder to learn which systems are right for your home and you.
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