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Energy (and Life) Efficiency Through Gadgetry

June 1, 2016

 

I recall a Disneyland visit in the late 90’s where they presented an exhibit demonstrating the “modern, connected home.” While the tech was bleeding-edge it was barely functional. However, fast-forward to today and you’ll find working automation products breaking out of the lab and truly ready for prime-time. A connected environment can tie multiple, disparate services together and simplify how they are triggered. From motion sensors to smartphone controls, my home and office integrate a half-dozen gadgets that bring efficiency to both life and my energy footprint. 

 

Lights are one of the common starting points in the realm of automation. In my home I use WeMo (wemo.com) products to control lights from my iPhone or set timers that turn off and on particular lights based on schedules. In office environments I find motion sensors to be paramount. It may not sound earth shattering, but the energy savings from keeping office, utility and conference room lights off while they’re not occupied can add up. And with LED bulbs that snap to attention quickly when someone enters the room, the motion sensing approach is a perfect fit.

 

At home I use Nest (nest.com) to simplify temperature management. I control my thermostat via smartphone, set pre-determined schedules, or let Nest build a schedule based on my comings and goings. Like many readers, my home has central air; but in newer office environments, “duct-less” AC units can provide a better experience and are dramatically more energy efficient. A small, wall-mounted unit can deliver each office the ideal heating or cooling. Consider the weekend-worker coming into the office on a Saturday. In a forced-air model, they might have to turn on the entire 3rd floor. Not only does this scenario burn a ton of juice to cool thousands of square feet, the poor guy slaving away may wait an hour to get to an ideal temp. But with a room-based unit, the worker’s space reaches optimal temperature quickly and efficiently without struggling to control the rest of the space as well.

 

I’ll mention one more automation gadget I’ve found to be fairly remarkable. Ring (ring.com) is a connected doorbell mounted at your front door. It includes a traditional doorbell button along with a motion sensor, camera, microphone and speaker. Anytime Ring senses motion – or is pushed – my phone immediately connects me to the video feed of the doorbell. From here I can simply watch the action, or I can begin a two-way conversation with the person on my doorstep. And the coolest part is: I don’t even need to be home. Ring is a Wi-Fi-enabled device that can alert my phone wherever I may be. So I can lie to the UPS lady to “go ahead and leave the package, I’m in the backyard.” Or I can talk to the stranger potentially casing the house and just checking to see if anyone is home that, “yes, I’m cooking dinner right now and not interested.” And even beyond these situations, I gain the general understanding of all activity at my door. I know when my nanny leaves and I know when my housekeeper arrives — date and time stamped. And while this creates very little energy savings in terms of fossil fuels, the conservation of my personal energy is priceless. 

 

I’d highly recommend taking a peek at the latest connected devices flooding the market this year. Many save energy, some just save time. But combined together they could just transform your home or office into your own personal Disneyland….

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