Home control centers were long the realm of rich people and sci-fi stories, rendered inaccessible by both the expense of the technology and pricey installation. Technology has become affordable and wireless controllers for lights and appliances have solved the installation issues. Starter kits run less than $2,000, so take control of your home’s energy consumption.
No one advocates wasting energy, but even the best of intentions can be thwarted by…well, by reality. In the morning rush out the door, lights get left on. You mute the stereo “for a second” and it remains on for hours or even days. The kids turn off the video game, but the TV–a serious energy hog–stays on, broadcasting a blank screen all night. Home control systems can help you monitor what’s on and off in your house from a centrally located or mobile controller, a computer, or even an Internet-capable wireless handheld device.
Building a Control System
When home control systems had to be hardwired, it made sense to install all components at once so that users would only have to go through the expense and inconvenience of having their walls torn open once. But with wireless technology, you can add components easily, whenever your budget or circumstances dictate.
Basic kits generally feature components that control lighting, as well as a thermostat adapter so that you can adjust the thermostat remotely when you’re home, and via the Internet when you’re away. Many systems can detect if TV and stereo systems are on and allow you to turn them off, while more sophisticated home controllers can control entire home theater systems, taking the place of multiple remote controls. Some systems also control home security systems (much of the technology used in home control systems was initially developed for home security), and can even use security features to save energy.
Motion detectors, for example, can detect intruders when you are away and the security system is armed. When you’re at home, they can detect when a room is empty and relay that information to your home controller, which can be programmed to turn off lights, TVs, and stereo equipment in rooms that have been unoccupied for a set amount of time. Security components can also detect open windows or doors, and alert you that energy is potentially being wasted when the heat or air conditioning turns on. More advanced home control systems can even raise or lower window shades when temperature sensors indicate that a room is getting too hot or cold.
Home control systems designed for the masses are still in their infancy, but as the technology comes down both in price and complexity, they are increasingly accessible for “regular folks.” If you’re serious about going green, consider (wirelessly) wiring your home to a control system.