If you're a homeowner, then chances are that one of your goals is to reduce the energy usage in your home -- not only to lower bills, but also to contribute toward a cleaner environment. It's an added plus that homes with lower energy usage and access to renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly more marketable and desirable to buyers. No longer will simply increasing insulation and turning down the air conditioner be enough to label a home "energy efficient" -- technology, and home automation systems, are the latest solution to home energy inefficiencies, and something every homeowner should look into today.
Home automation with cleaner living in mind does not mean, however, that it is necessary to rush out and buy a complete solar power or renewable energy system to install in your home. It's often implausible or far too expensive to completely rewire your house on a whim. Despite the fact that solar technology and similar systems are dropping in price, most would still be a stretch financially for many homeowners.
A more immediate option is to consider a renewable energy plan from your current power provider (in deregulated markets, companies like Epcor Power and many others can source a percentage of your energy from alternative green sources, and then supplement that renewable energy with a smart thermostat, such as Google's Nest, to help minimize your overall energy usage. The Nest, like other smart thermostats, is able to set schedules to avoid unnecessary temperature control when no one is home. It can also be programmed to prioritize certain areas of the home, such as the bedrooms at night, to maintain a comfortable living temperature without heating or cooling every room.
Another easy change is to consider simple plugins like the Belkin WeMo Switch. The switch is applied to any appliance in your home — perhaps something you often forget to turn off - which is then connected to the internet. Any product with a plug, such as space heaters, TVs, coffee machines, stereos, lamps, and more can be fitted with a switch. The Belkin is then accessible through its mobile application, which you can use to turn appliances off or on from anywhere. Turning on your air conditioning an hour before you arrive home, instead of having it run all day, suddenly becomes a possibility. Similar WeMo products can be easily added, and since they all work in conjunction with existing wi-fi systems, it takes little to no effort to add to your home automation system.
If you've come to the conclusion that it might be worth investing in an entire home automation system, but aren't sure if expensive, all-inclusive professional systems (such as the Control 4, which automates everything from your lighting to your entertainment system) are in your price range, there are other options. One of the best selling and most popular home automation systems is the Vivint. The Vivint allows you to control lighting, temperature, security and even entertainment, again through your phone or tablet. The best feature of the Vivint, though, is its Solar Energy Package. Alone, solar roof panels are incredibly costly, but when purchased with the Vivint's home automation system, buyers can avoid an upfront investment.
There are also DIY options like the Revolv Smart Home. The Revolv is a less expensive product (it sells on Amazon for just under $300) that combines the powers of Wi-fi, Z-wave and Insteon, with Zigbee compatibility on the way. Revolv eliminates the need to pick and choose products that communicate in one way only; since the hub works with multiple home automation wireless protocols, it will detect and control any individual home automation device -- including both the Nest thermostat and WeMo products mentioned above. The Revolv hub is perfect for those who would rather build their home automation system piece by piece rather than commit to an single package or product line.
Yet another option between something as controlled as the Vivint, but more advanced than stand-alone products, is the Iris. The major advantage of this system is its ease of purchase and availability -- you can pick it up at your local Lowe's. This system controls lights, climate, and security. The Iris is similar to the Revolv in that it is largely customizable; homeowners can choose which features and products they'd like to input, as well as decide between basic (free) plans or premium plans which add additional features such as voice control. While the Iris is also a hub, it is more limited regarding which products it can connect to.
No matter which system you choose to implement, there's no denying that home automation and energy saving products are the key to preparing homes for the future, especially one where our current resources are becoming increasingly limited. It doesn't hurt, of course, that this technology can also result in a more efficient home with much lower utility bills, giving you some immediate rewards along with an improved environmental awareness.