Is Home Automation a genuine energy saver or a luxury we could do without
It seems that the must have gadgets of this decade are all based around the idea of home automation (HA). We have seen the introduction of smart thermostats and intelligent heating controls, remote controlled lighting and app controlled multimedia systems. Large brands such as Philips, Apple and even Google are taking home automation and pushing it to the forefront of all product ideas. The popularity of these products have been boosted by the improved connectivity through smartphones and tablets, while improvements in the manufacturing process has meant a reduction in cost to the consumer. Now, a few of these gadgets are advertised purely as luxury and not vital for everyday living. Ignoring these, I want to focus on the so called ‘energy saving’ home automation gadgets and whether or not they deserve to be called that. Are they actually going to save the environment, shave pennies from your bills and do they let you live life to the full from your sofa? A focus on lighting, heating and appliance control is what we’ll be looking at, more specifically having a look at products such as Tado, Hue, and EGO.
Cost savings compared to Energy savings
The first point to raise is the difference between ‘energy savings’ and ‘cost savings’. Now you may argue that they are one in the same, but bare with me. We have already seen products such as LED light bulbs come up trumps with regards to both of these. They are relatively cheap and are proven to cut lighting bills by as much as 90%. If you take a bulb of 5W for example as a replacement for an old 50W halogen or incandescent bulb, not only does it provide great energy savings, as that is 45W no longer being used, but it also has significant cost savings as the cost of purchasing the bulb is fairly small relative to the savings that can be made. Some products are great at energy saving, but just don’t pay back very well and won’t provide you with the cost savings you want.
Smart Thermostats – energy savers or a luxury
As people have begun to live life on their phone, companies have started to shift everything they possibly can to that same device. In the past decade, we have gone from wall mounted thermostats, to mobile thermostats that can be moved around the house, to smart thermostats that can be controlled anywhere via the internet, and indeed your phone. Smart thermostats have been introduced on the premise that they will save you hundreds of pound per year – thus being great cost savers and energy savers. It wasn’t long ago that this writer would rely on a basic programmer and hope that he didn’t find himself changing plans too frequently, which would see his boiler pointlessly being on for a couple of evenings and mornings each week. So the jump was taken to a smart thermostat. A quick change and the power to control the temperature and timings was now on the phone. No longer was there a worry of plans changing, as the boiler could be switched off wherever and whenever the user liked. A clear energy saver. However, with prices starting at £150 and ending way way north of that, it is difficult to see how much of a cost saving product they are, this writer will certainly be interested to see when the £199.99 is paid back. It has to be said though, cost savings aside, the pure comfort that a smart thermostat gives you is incomparable. No longer do you have to enter a cold house, as the thermostat senses you are coming home and so fires up the boiler. You simply never walk into a cold house again.
Verdict: Comfort levels – absolutely outstanding and worth getting one just because of this.
Cost savings – certainly some there but may be a number of years before it’s paid back, saves around £3-7 per week when my heating is on (2-3months) so estimate about 5 year payback. Energy savings – absolutely as it saves the boiler a good few hours a week.
Home Automation – A genuine Energy Saver, providing bucket loads of comfort
Hue – revolutionising domestic lighting
Philips Hue is an app controlled lighting system. Not only can you switch off your lights from your smartphone or tablet, but you can change the colour and light intensity to suit your mood. You can even bring up one of your favourite photos and recreate the light and colour shown. This incredible product has revolutionised domestic lighting and has taken HA to a new level. A very suave gadget that, coming in at around £179.99 for a starter kit containing 3 bulbs is certainly one for the luxury pile. For HA, this is truly an incredible product, and one that can really bring your home into the technological era with a bang. However, with no energy savings and certainly no cost savings, the product is one for those that think they have everything.
EGO – a smart socket for the energy conscious or the lazy?
The EGO is a smartphone controlled plug that enables you to control and monitor your appliances. When you are lying on the sofa you can switch the TV on, in bed and switch the kettle on, and out and about and switch the lights off. On the face on things, this product has it all. It’s a luxury, as you don’t have to move to switch things off and on, but its also a certain energy saver as you can monitor an appliance’s energy usage and make adjustments accordingly, even turn it off from work if you forgot to do it before you left. This type of HA has everything. Not only does it bring technology into the home, but it also increases comfort as you can do everything from the palm of your hand. However, with prices starting at around £39.99 for each socket, it certainly comes at a cost.
So Home Automation seems to come in various different forms. In every case it adds comfort, or ease, to home living. There are certain areas in which these gadgets do save, but all in all they often come at too large of an upfront cost to expect any kind of decent payback within 5 years. However, they deserve to be this decade’s must have gadgets and this writer certainly hopes to get his hands on a few more products before too long.