[From time to time, Clean Air Watch publishes guest posts we believe are of general interest. We hope you enjoy this piece by Beth Laurel.]
Using Automation and the IoT to Conserve Energy
There has, undoubtedly, been tremendous progress in society’s attention and recognition of climate change. We are within the midst of a turbulent time, fighting an uphill battle against development, pollution, well-funded fossil fuel companies and out-of-touch government bureaucracy. The possibilities afforded by IoT technologies, however, have begun to allow everyday individuals to explore new avenues for improving energy efficiency in their own homes. Not only do these systems aim to improve the user's ability to reduce energy expenditure, they are also designed to connect with each other through a single easy-to-use interface, creating a more complete picture of consumption overall.
Applying the Internet of Things to Energy
“The Internet of Things” is a term used to describe a higher level of connectivity between various devices. This central network can apply to just about any object that is capable of a connection, and trends in the IoT have resulted in tremendous advances for all types of technologies. Everything from HVAC systems to refrigerators are now available as connected components of the same system.
Home Automation Advantages
Connected home devices are proving new models for consumer engagement in energy use.
With wireless systems and products installed everyday people can save energy and optimize their home's internal processes, reducing power lost to vampire loads, lighting and electronic devices left on unnecessarily and inefficient home heating strategies. “Smart” home products such as automated light bulbs and Wifi thermostats are already familiar to many. Other systems include motion-sensor lights that turn on when the homeowner is in a specific room or area. Programmable, motorized window fixtures to keep out the sun’s hot rays. Sophisticated heat pump systems that transfer heat from an unused room to one that is in use. When all of these devices “come together” they can play a pivotal role in reversing wasteful patterns.
By getting to know one of the home technology platforms currently on the market, it isn't difficult to rig up a network that will control everything through a single unified interface. Through an app like Apple’s latest called simply “Home”, heating, cooling and additional settings can be pre-programmed ahead of time or remotely. Devices will “learn” to automatically react to your daily routines and preferences. In apps, it’s also possible to see the systems and products that suck the most power, and the times of day it is most expensive.
Larger City-Wide Upgrades
Though the vast majority of these changes have been implemented on a residential basis, developers are implementing IoT advancements to city-wide systems as well. Many basic energy saving installations are based around mechanical facets, such as skillful city-planning and the creative use of certain colors to reflect sunlight and harness rays as energy. In addition to these changes, experts are also beginning to place electrical optimization options up on a larger scale. Integrating data gathered from smart energy meters and the larger connected grid system helps determine what is needed to establish municipal utility standards for more intelligent energy use. Though such systems start out small on a homeowner level, larger strategic implementations can mean expansive energy savings for apartment complexes, shopping centers, towns and even larger cities.
Experts optimistically project that by reaching such a collective usage of the IoT, it will be possible to make tremendous strides in reducing the world's carbon footprint. The underpinning of a healthy climate system lies in the entanglement of people and the environment by long webs of economic, cultural, and environmental connectivity, binding us into one all-embracing social-ecological system. Today the Internet, the “information superhighway”, is on its way towards helping us better harness the natural resources upon which we depend despite ever-diminishing supply. In the future this knowledge will become a tool as powerful as any at our disposal.
Beth is a Midwestern blogger from Lansing, Michigan. A graduate of DePaul University, she’s passionate about covering updates in the clean technology space and other innovations driving the renewable energy movement forward. She is a strong advocate of the “maker movement” and self-sufficient, green living.