From Engineering on June 25, 2009 in Electrical
These are the days of hi-tech everything, from solar-powered satellites to your kitchen faucet. These are also the days of high energy demand and costs, and an age when it has become palpably clear how our energy usage affects our local, national, and global climate. In response there has been a movement among manufacturers to combine hi-tech with eco-friendly, and a big part of that movement is electronic sensors. Nowadays your fixtures and appliances are smart enough to control themselves. Your house lights are able to recognize when you’re home. And your sprinkler system can learn exactly when to kick on the water. Electronic sensors are not only controlling the action and efficiency of many of our home systems, they are also making our busy lives a little easier and keeping our wallets a little heavier. Following are some of the home systems, from lighting to landscaping, that can benefit from the addition of an electronic sensor: Photo credit: takomabibelot
Home occupancy sensors can save you the trouble of fumbling around in the dark for a light switch as well as save the valuable energy and money involved in leaving a light on when you leave the home. This goes for motion sensor lights on the front porch as well as interior lights in the entryway. Especially popular in bathrooms, electronic motion sensors can be programmed to turn on when they detect movement and turn off after a set time in which no motion is detected.
Photo credit: doortoriver
Electronic thermostats are really catching on, in part because heating and cooling are the number one sappers of energy in the modern home. Electronic or digital thermostats can be programmed to turn off when you are not home (say, 9-5) and can have the home back to a comfortable level upon your arrival. Meanwhile you live with the comfort that your air conditioning wasn’t on the whole time you were at work. Most models allow you to set daily and seasonal changes in the system, as well as vacations and other getaways. Programmable thermostats are regarded as one of the best ways to conserve energy in the home; to the point that some utilities are even paying or offering rebates for their installation.
It happens all the time, a home’s sprinkler system (even one on a timer) will kick on in the middle of a thunderstorm, wasting energy and water. We just can’t be home all the time to manually control our irrigation systems and maximize water and energy efficiency. Electronic sprinkler sensors can detect changes in humidity, sunlight, and rainfall to shut off or turn on whenever necessary. Photo credit: drcorneilus
You’ve probably used faucets with electronic sensors in many a public bathroom. That’s because they save the owners or lessees of these buildings a lot of money, as well as saving the community a lot of water. This technology is finally permeating the residential market as well. Electronic faucets are battery-powered and only release water when it senses hand motion, while providing sanitary operation and saving water and energy.
Photo credit: Jeff Sandquist
Motorized Window Shades.
These are still on the cutting edge of home automation, although really no more complex than the above examples. Motorized window shades can be programmed as part of a home automation system or operated by remote control, switches, or sunlight sensors. They are a great way to maximize the benefits of passive solar heating in the winter as well as preventing it during the warm summer months when you’d rather keep the sun out of your house. Not to mention the pleasure of waking up, stretching, and literally watching the world open up before your very eyes. They come in the form of shades, blinds, or drapes. Motorized shutters are another option which allow you to control the amount of light entering and are great for out-of-reach windows.
The future of automated home technology will most certainly include automatic windows as well as window shades. Hooked up to sunlight or heat sensors, these smart windows will know when to open or shut to maximize the home’s energy efficiency. You can see them in action at the world’s first “Active House.”