In a green smart home, photo-voltaic solar panels may be used. When using photovoltaic solar panels, and a grid-tied system with back-up batteries, the electrical running costs are reduced by up to 95%.
And when generating more electricity than we need, we may be paid by the national supplier for feeding that excess back into the grid.
Additionally, when the green home is resold, the initial outlay for green features is fully recouped.
Other ways in which money is saved and profits are increased in a green home are by:
- Using energy-efficient lighting, heating and air-conditioning systems.
- Conserving and managing the use of water, using smart technology.
- Using natural light and air by rethinking the placement of doors, windows, and other openings.
- Using building materials that provide efficient insulation.
- Using sensors to control lighting and air-conditioning.
Being green conscious, we may recycle, reuse, reduce and repurpose.
The next and ultimate step is to live in a green smart home.
A green smart home blends green features with smart home technology. Smart technology is used to manage and further improve on the efficiency and costs of running a green home. Energy-and-water-efficiency – and comfort are maximised.
From monitoring the water level in the rainwater harvesting tank to adjusting one of the zone temperatures within the hydronics radiant heating and cooling system, smart technology makes living green, easier.
Schedules are set up to run the green features automatically. We balance comfort and efficiency while doing our part for Mother Earth. And homeowners who move from traditional homes to green homes are aware that they’ll save on monthly running costs.
“A circular economy is one that builds economic, natural and social capital” (petco.co.za).
Plastic bottles are valuable and aren’t actually waste. In modern times, packaging is necessary to get the product to the consumer, but once it has served its purpose, packaging is considered dirty and unwanted.
As an example of how recycled plastic is used, Isotherm is an insulating material that’s made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
Traditional homes usually have ceiling insulation that’s made from fibre glass or asbestos, which isn’t environmentally friendly at all. Isotherm is an eco-friendly and effective alternative.
Isotherm is dust and water resistant, non-toxic, without associated health risks, non-flammable and lasts longer than most other insulating materials.
The humble plastic bottle is humble no more.
Is it then farfetched to Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and ending up living in a green smart home, driving a green smart car, working in a green smart office, and living in a green smart city?
In a green smart home, one is able to monitor and control every aspect.
At a glance, we see what our electricity usage is and take steps to reduce usage without sacrificing convenience or comfort.
Hot water is always on tap.
With water tanks being used to collect and store rainwater, the water level is checked at a glance, using the smart monitoring system.
The green smart home works with the environment. A full weather report including the temperature and humidity levels is always available on the app.
And with hydronics radiant heating and cooling, and with comprehensive insulation being in place, one walks barefoot and in a t-shirt in winter.
Many are realising that green living has great financial benefits. And smart home automation systems also help with saving on monthly costs, as well as adding to comfort and convenience.
As an example, smart lighting systems are used.
A sensor in every room automatically switches lights on and off when movement is detected. This is a luxurious way to live. At night, when everyone else in the house is sleeping, there is no need to look for light switches in the dark when going into the kitchen or bathroom.
Lighting is one of the easiest areas in which to save energy.
As another example, heat pumps heat water using less electricity than a geyser. The energy consumption of the heat pump is monitored by the smart home automation system – and it is possible to adjust the water temperature via a smartphone app or computer, adding convenience to one’s lifestyle.
It’s the ultimate dream for every homeowner—being able to produce enough electricity to run your home without ever relying on the grid. The benefits to homeowners are twofold. First, it can significantly reduce your monthly electricity bill. Second, you’ll never be without power. Even if the grid goes down, your appliances and lights will carry on working.
Existing homes can also be retro-fitted with a photo-voltaic system, although this may incur some additional costs. We’ll look at what’s involved, how the system works and what costs and saving you can expect from using such solar power.
What is a photo-voltaic system?
Essentially, photo-voltaic means harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into electricity that can be used to power your home. The system can be independent or work in conjunction with your existing electricity supply. It consists of the following components:
- Solar panels
- An inverter (which converts direct current (DC) power from the solar panels into alternating current (AC) for powering appliances
- Batteries to store electricity which is not used immediately (these are for when the sun isn’t shining)
While there are currently no incentives offered to homeowners who install such a system, this may change in the future. And it may be possible that local councils will purchase electricity back from homeowners as more people install these systems in their homes. In other words, installing a photo-voltaic system in your home will not just save you money, but earn you money too.
What do you need and how does it work?
These are the main components of any photo-voltaic system:
- Solar panels
The solar panels are made up of a series of cells that convert the power of the sun into electricity you can use in your home. They are often installed on the roof where they can capture the most sunlight during daylight hours. They are made from semi-conductor materials such as silicon. When light strikes the surface of the panel, the energy penetrates the cells and dislodges electrons from the material’s surface. Chemicals added to the surface of the panel help to create a path for the electrons to travel down. And this is what creates an electrical current.
- DC-AC inverter: This device converts the electrical current into one that can be used to power the appliances in your home.
- Solar storage batteries: Considering our sunny climate it is possible to generate more electricity than you need during the day. In this case, batteries can be used to store the excess electricity generated, ensuring that you have an uninterrupted and constant supply of power whenever you need it.
- Charge controller/regulator: These prevent excessive discharge or overcharging which may damage the storage battery.
The system is a simple but effective way on powering your home for free. But there are two different systems, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Types of Solar Power Systems
Either of these systems is suitable for the home or office. Which one you chose will depend on your needs. They are:
The stand-alone solar power system
This system only consists of two components: the solar panels and the DC/AC converter. It’s a popular choice for powering ventilation fans, water pumps and with small circulation pumps with solar water heating systems.
Because it doesn’t include batteries, there is no way to store the power generated for use when there is no direct sunlight. So it’s worth considering adding batteries to your solar panel that will allow you to store energy for use during periods of insufficient sunlight.
The grid-connected hybrid power system
This kind of system works hand-in-hand with your regular supply of grid power. Because the inverter changes the current of the photo-voltaic solar panels from DC to AC, the electricity is consistent with the voltage and power quality requirements of the grid. Therefore the self-generated electricity is automatically either supplied to the home, the batteries or the grid.
When it generates more electricity than the home needs, and the batteries are fully loaded, the system feeds power back into the grid. It also means that you will still have a supply of power, from the batteries to your home when your panels aren’t producing power due to lack of sunlight, or if it has been disabled to carry out repairs or is being serviced, in which case it either draws power from the batteries or the grid; based on the lower threshold of the batteries, or which part of the system is being repaired or serviced.
The automation ensures optimal use of the self-generated and grid electricity of the hybrid system.
Determining the size of the system you require
A photo-voltaic system can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to break your budget. The first step in determining whether the long term savings it offers are worth it, is to figure out how much energy you need to run your home comfortably. This is how you should go about it:
- Make a list of all the electrical appliances you use, how many watts they need to work and how many hours you use them every day.
- Now multiply the number of watts by hours of use to get the total needed for each appliance.
- Add these figures together and you’ll have the total number of watts your system needs to generate on a daily basis.
- Work out how many hours of daylight you get every day.
- Finally, divide the total watts you require by the number of daylight hours and you’ll have a figure that indicates how many watts your system needs to produce on a daily basis.
Let’s use your TV as an example. Say you watch about 2 hours of TV every evening, and it uses about 14 Watts, multiply that by 2 and you end up with 28 Watts to run your TV. You’ll need to do this calculation for every appliance in your home.
And let’s say that you work out your home needs an average of 3000 Watts a day to keep all these appliances working. If you get an average of 4.3 hours of daylight, then divide the 3000 Watts by 4.3 and you’ll need a solar panel system that can deliver at least 698 Watts to power your home without relying on the national grid.
Remember, if you use your solar panels in conjunction with the main grid, you can start small and add more panels as you can afford them. This way you can start reaping the benefits of solar power without spending a large amount of money.
And if you consider how much a photo-voltaic system will save on your monthly electricity bill, it won’t be long before you can afford to increase your system to cope with your demands.
Photo-voltaic Solar Panel Installation
If you don’t have the required technical skills, it is best to leave the installation of your solar panel system to the experts. A company that is properly accredited will be able to install the system correctly and safely.
You have three different options when it comes to installing the solar panels:
- Ground mounted solar panels
- Roof mounted solar panels
- Thin film solar panels
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Whether you are buying a green home with this feature or retro-fitting an existing home, you’ll need to consider the cost and practicality of each system before you make a decision. Here is some more information about each kind of installation to help you:
- Ground mounted solar panels
In this case the solar panels are fastened to the ground, and you have a few more options to choose from:
- Static Mounted System:This is the most cost-effective type of installation, provided you have the space for it. The panels are mounted in a position to capture the maximum amount of sunlight.
- Active Solar Tracker:These panels actively track the sun during the day to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight.
- Passive Solar Tracker:This system uses heat from the sun to move a liquid inside the tracker from side to side. So gravity does the work of moving the panels and it eliminates the need for motors, gears and controls. This makes it slightly cheaper than an active solar tracker.
Ground mounted solar panels are ideal if you have a large area of unused land. You can install more panels and enjoy higher savings. And you don’t have to make any changes to rooftop to accommodate the panels.
- Roof mounted solar panels
You can mount photo-voltaic solar panels on just about any kind of roof, although tiled roofs can present a bit of a challenge. The panels are mounted directly on the roof and will not interfere with the aesthetics of your home.
They don’t take up any space on land that you may want to use for other projects and they offer additional protection from the weather and general wear and tear. This increases the value of your property. They’re also faster and easier to install than ground mounted systems.
- Thin film solar panels
Although these aren’t more efficient at collecting sunlight than other solar panels, they have some attractive advantages. They are literally glued onto the roof which eliminates the risk of damage to your roof. They’re lighter than other panels too and in very hot climates they tend to work better than conventional panels.
The size of your property, the position of your roof, how much energy you need to generate and the installation costs all need to be taken into consideration. You should also work out how much you’ll save to determine your return on investment. You might be surprised to find that solar panels are not that expensive to install.
The benefits of a photovoltaic system
The energy generated from solar panels is a renewable resource. Unlike coal and gas it will never run out and you’ll enjoy free electricity for at least 25 – 30 years (this is the average lifespan of a solar panel).
Solar panels provide a safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly form of power for your home. It doesn’t produce any harmful emissions and you’ll never have to suffer the inconvenience of a power blackout again. With the savings it generates, you’ll have more money to spend down the line as the cost of electricity continues to rise.
Light, heat and power have become a part of our modern lives. Without a steady supply of electricity we cannot work, cook, communicate or play. Unfortunately, increasing demand from businesses and individuals is placing a strain on our national grid. Not only can the national supplier not cope with this demand, but it is also forcing the price of electricity up all the time.
There has never been a better time to invest in this green technology. You will quickly recover your initial costs in the form of regular savings on your monthly running costs. And you can always start small and increase the number of panels as you can afford them.
Do you know how much money you could save by going green? You may be aware that eco-friendly houses are cheaper to run. Retrofitting your existing home or buying a new eco-friendly home can be pricey. How can you be sure that the money you save will help to pay for such an expensive investment? You’ll only be able to calculate the return on your investment if you know exactly how much you’re spending to run your home now.
An energy audit will help you understand where and how you use energy in your home. Once you know that, you’ll be able to work out how much you can save by switching to green living. Or, at the very least you can identify areas where you can reduce your consumption and costs.
Although a professional energy audit will be more thorough, doing it yourself will give a rough idea of the costs and the opportunity to understand your energy consumption better. Keep this checklist handy and make notes as you go through every room in your house.
Calculating the costs of your appliances and devices
Kitchens are filled with appliances that rely on electricity, so it’s a good idea to start your energy audit here. To begin with, you’ll need to determine the wattage of your machines. You can find this information on the wattage label or check the user manual. Once you have that information, work out how many hours a day you use the appliance. For example, your fridge runs all day while your washing machine may only work for 2 – 3 hours at a time.
These are the other appliances that you should take note of:
- Oven and stove
- Washing machine
- Coffee maker
Now you can start to calculate your energy consumption. For example, let’s take a washing machine with a wattage of 350 that works around 3 hours a day:
Step 1: Multiply the unit’s wattage by the number of hours you use it to find the number of watt-hours consumed per day.
350 x 3 = 1050 watt-hours per day
Step 2: The electricity on your monthly bill is measured in kilowatts, so you’ll need to convert your watts-per day figure. All you have to do is divide this figure by 1000.
1050/1000 = 1.05kWh per day
Step 3: Now you need to calculate how much power your washing machine uses in a month. Just take the previous figure and multiply it by 30.
1.05 x 30 = 31.5 kWh per month
Step 4: Use your last electricity bill to see how much you were charged per kWh. For the sake of this example, let’s use the figure of R1 per kWh.
31.5 kWh per month x R1 = R31.50 per month.
There you have it; you’ll have to perform this calculation for every appliance in the kitchen, and once you’re done you’ll have a clearer idea of how much each one contributes to your monthly energy bill.
Once you’ve finished in the kitchen, move on to your living room and work out the costs for the following items:
- TV and decoder
- DVD player
- Game consoles
- Ceiling fan
- Music centre
If you have a study or home office, work out the costs of your equipment such as:
- Cell phone
- Fax machine
You’ll be amazed at just how many of the gadgets you own use power once you start adding them up. These will only account for a percentage of your energy bill. You also have to account for seasonal differences. In winter, your power bill surges because you rely on heaters to keep your home warm and cosy. Don’t forget to work out the power consumption for these:
- Electric blankets
Aside from your electronic devices, there are other ways you use power that contribute to your final bill. We’ll look at these next.
Adding up the costs of lighting and heating water
Energy for lighting accounts for around 10% of your energy bill. You can work out exactly how much you spend on keeping the lights on using the same calculation as you did for your appliances. Find out the wattage of your globes and average how many hours they on every day.
When it comes to heating water for bathing and cleaning, you’ll need to work things out a little differently. The most difficult part is calculating how much hot water you use in a day. As an example, let’s assume that you shower every day.
A standard shower uses 16 – 20 litres of water a minute. If you shower for 5 minutes that means you use a total of 80 – 100 litres of water. Now you should know that it takes 1kWh to heat 36 litres of water to a temperature of 40°. So a five minute shower would use about 2.5kWh of power.
To work out the total cost of your shower we’ll assume that 1kWh costs R1—remember to check your account to see how much you pay per kWh in your area. The final calculation will look like this:
2.5KWh x R1 = R2.50 per shower
If you shower every day, multiply R2.50 by 30 to get your total for a month which would come to R75. Now multiply that number by how many people in the house shower every day.
Keep in mind that your geyser doesn’t only use electricity when you turn on the hot water tap. It uses power throughout the day so that warm water is always available. Calculating how much energy it uses when not in use gets tricky. Refer to the rating on your geyser to give you a rough idea.
|Category||Standing losses: kWh per day|
Let’s assume you have a 200 litre capacity geyser with an E energy rating. Your geyser will use approximately 3kWh per day to keep warm. Add this to the total kilowatt hours you use for showering in a month and you’ll have a total of 165kWh. At R1 per kWh your total for the month is R165.
Adding up the costs
It may take you a bit of time to work out all the costs; once you have the final figures you’ll be glad you made the effort. You’ll be able to compare the running costs of a traditional home against those offered by eco-friendly homes and see just how quickly you could recoup your investment. You’ll get tp know why greener living saves you money.
Making the change to living green
With a clear picture of your energy consumption start making small changes to your home. Try some of the following tips and then watch what a difference it will make to your next electricity bill.
- Turn down the thermostat on your geyser: You can drop the temperature of your hot water by a few degrees and save a lot of money. You won’t really notice the difference, but you will see the results on your monthly bills.
- Invest in a geyser blanket: They’re not that expensive and they make your geyser more efficient at retaining heat without gobbling up power.
- Install low-flow shower heads: You’ll still get clean and enjoy your showers, and save precious water and electricity.
- Replace your incandescent light bulbs: Switch your old-fashioned light bulbs out for energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). They last longer too.
- Wait for a full load: Before you turn on the dishwasher or washing machine, making sure you have a full load of dishes or laundry. Don’t waste power and water on small loads; rather do them by hand if you can’t wait.
- Skip the pre-rinse cycle: Again, this applies to your dishwasher and your washing machine. Unless your dishes or clothes are heavily soiled, there’s no need to rinse them before you wash them.
- Don’t make your fridge too cold: Though you need to stop your food from spoiling, you don’t have to set your fridge to the coldest temperature available. That will only increase its power consumption.
- Don’t waste cold water: Collect the cold water when you run the hot tap and use it for your kettle or watering your garden.
- Switch off at the plug: Don’t leave your electronic devices plugged in when you aren’t using them or charging them. Even in standby mode they’ll use small amounts of electricity. This contributes to your bill at the end of the month.
- Insulate your home: To reduce your heating costs in the colder months, make sure your house is properly insulated. Seal up the gaps in window and door frames to keep the heat inside.
All it really takes is being mindful about the way you use power in your home. Once you know the true costs, it will be easier to adopt habits that can help you save. Green living isn’t just for the eco-conscious. Saving resources and money benefits everyone, even the planet.
The benefits of eco-friendly houses
If you’re serious about reducing your living expenses you’ll find that it’s worth investing in eco-friendly homes. They are purpose built to make the most of natural resources such as sunlight and rainwater. They take greener living to the next level with features such as photovoltaic solar panels and rainwater harvesting tanks. They make living green just as comfortable because they’re fully insulated and use a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer.
Eco-friendly homes require less maintenance and are cheaper to run. Your initial investment is much higher, though with the money you save on monthly costs, paying it off won’t be as long as you may think. If you try out some of the tips above, you’ll see immediately that greener living makes a difference to your pocket. And with eco-friendly homes, you save even more.
Another advantage of green living that you rely less on the grid for power and water. When load shedding or water restrictions happen—your impact will be less. That’s something people don’t always factor in about green living. It is more cost effective, mot comfortable and more convenient than living in a traditional home.
Try the home energy audit for yourself. Though it takes a little effort, you’ll be glad you did it. Even if you’re not ready to make the move to an eco-friendly house just yet, you’ll find ways to save on energy while still living comfortably. Going green isn’t about making sacrifices. It’s about finding ways to use resources wisely. Get the most out of your electricity supply and save!
More South Africans are starting to express an interest in living in eco-friendly homes. Once considered to be the preserve of the eco-conscious, more people are realising that green living has serious financial benefits. The same could be said about smart home automation systems. Although they’re not common in this country, as the technology develops, they are becoming more popular and have a number of benefits when used in green homes. In this article we’ll look at some of the ways smart home technology is used in eco-friendly houses.
Smart home automation for temperature control
The first thing to know about green homes is that they are properly insulated. Unlike traditional homes, green home developers understand that complete insulation makes it easier to manage the temperature inside the home. As the seasons change, homes that are well-insulated are easily adjusted to the temperature fluctuations. Insulation inside the walls, the floor and the ceiling, combined with double-glazing, in the winter keeps warm air from escaping and cold air from entering, and in summer, prevents cold air from escaping and hot air from entering.
In addition to insulation, many green homes use a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. This consists of a network of pipes connected to the hot water tank and the heat pump. Warm or cold water is pumped through the pipes to change the temperature in different rooms. It’s an energy-efficient system that provides consistent results. And has the ability to have different temperatures set for different rooms. That means concentrating on rooms which are occupied without using energy on rooms that aren’t occupied.
The pipes used in the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system are covered by a thick screed which acts as a conductor of the required temperature from the network of water pipes. The entire construction of the system is designed to be energy efficient. And this is only one area where smart home automation increases the energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the system.
Smart home automation systems make use of apps that are accessible via a smartphone or computer: To monitor, manage and adjust the temperature settings for each area in the home. This smart home automation system certainly is convenient to adjust the temperature, though it’s not the main thing about the smart technology.
The real advantage of the smart home system lies in the amount of information it gathers regarding the heating and cooling energy consumption. At a glance it’s possible to know how much energy the system is using to maintain the required temperatures, and enables taking immediate steps to reduce the electricity consumption by adjusting the temperature by a degree this way or that way, without sacrificing comfort. Over time, patterns and trends are available to budget accordingly. Or, adding new technologies to further reduce power consumption and measuring their effectiveness.
The system enables supporting a number of handy home automation systems, and is used most effectively to maximise energy-efficiency in the areas that use the most power. Installing smart technology infrastructure enables the monitoring and managing of the home’s power consumption, and even to improve the energy-efficiency.
Smart home automation for smart lighting solutions
A sensor in each room detects movement and automatically switches the lights on and off. While committed to greener living, this type of automation does make life more luxurious. When waking during the night no need to fumble for the light switch while on the way to the kitchen or bathroom. Who wouldn’t want to move about their home with lights turning on and off like magic?
Once again, the benefits of the system go far beyond making life more comfortable and convenient. Though lighting is one area that uses energy, it’s one of the modern conveniences that’s impossible to live without. And it’s one of the easiest places to save energy.
With a smart home automation system, no need to remember switching lights off when leaving the room. The sensor responds to motion, and does it automatically. Even saving a small amount of energy by switching off the lights in unoccupied rooms saves money. And as the cost of electricity increases, so will the savings.
Once again, the power consumption is visible with the smart home app. At any time, over days, weeks and months. This helps to budget for monthly running costs and enables bringing costs down. Green living is a balance between comfort, luxury, saving on running costs, lowering our carbon footprint, saving on resources, the environment and the planet.
Smart home automation to monitor your heat pump
Heating the water for daily needs takes a significant amount of energy. Once again, eco-friendly homes use energy-efficient heat pumps or solar water heaters to reduce the costs of heating water. Also available are linked-loop systems, so hot water is available within seconds of turning on a tap. It’s one of the ways green living is more luxurious than living in a traditional home. No need to wait for the water to heat up before stepping into the shower, or when washing hands in winter.
And that luxury all comes at a reduced cost. Heat pumps take the heat out of the air and use it to heat water using less electricity than a conventional geyser. In a green home the pipes are insulated which helps to maintain the temperature of the hot water [and cold water] and saves more electricity. As with any green home, every element has been designed to maximise energy-efficiency.
The power consumption of the heat pump is included in the data gathered by the smart home automation system. Not only does this make it easier for homeowners to get a clear picture of their energy usage, it is possible to adjust the temperature of the water via the smartphone app or computer.
Turning down the temperature for the hot water tank, even by a few degrees, makes a big difference to the monthly electricity bill. It’s never been convenient to climb into your roof simply for the sake of turning down the thermostat. In a green smart home, everything is straightforward and easy to access, simply make the adjustment on the smartphone or computer.
And because it’s possible to monitor the effects of temperature changes, tweaking the temperature to find balance and efficiency is easy. Living greener does not require giving up a comfortable lifestyle. In fact, it makes running a home easier, more cost-effective and even fun. Hot water is one of moderns life’s necessities, and now it’s possible to contain energy and costs. By combining green technology with smart home automation, it easy to maximise the heat pump’s energy-efficiency.
Smart home automation to monitor rainwater tank levels
Electricity isn’t the only precious resource used in our homes. Water is essential for daily cooking, cleaning and bathing. Given our current drought situation, saving every drop is a habit we’ll all benefit from. That’s why many green homes include rainwater harvesting tanks. Collecting rainwater which is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine is the ideal way to reduce the strain on the municipal water supply, oh, and our pockets.
In urban areas, most of the rainwater is lost. That’s why it makes sense to collect and store rainwater wherever possible. Rainwater tanks can be installed underground. This saves space and extends the lifespan of the tank as it’s not exposed to the elements. It also means that the system requires little maintenance. Yet more proof that green living is convenient.
The rainwater tank is connected to the municipal supply, so should the level in the tank be used to the lower threshold, the system automatically switches over to the municipal water. With new rains it automatically switches back to rainwater usage. One of the benefits of harvesting rainwater is that it reduces the monthly water bill. Monitoring the rainwater tank levels is useful. That’s why a sensor is installed in the rainwater tank, feeding information to the smart technology system. Once again, the level and water usage is accessible via the smartphone app and the computer.
This information is captured continuously to observe the levels over the course of days, weeks, months and years. This is where the real advantage of combining a green feature with smart home technology really shows itself. This data makes it easy to identify patterns and trends. Although it’s difficult to predict rainfall, the data provides a clear picture of how much rainwater is used in and around the home over a period of time.
With this information it’s easy to budget accordingly, or take steps to reduce water usage. The more aware we are of how much water we use, the easier it becomes to find ways to reduce our consumption. And the added benefit of living in eco-friendly homes is that savings are made without giving up the things that make modern living convenient.
Green homes are built to use resources such as power and water efficiently. All the green features that make these eco-friendly homes efficient are monitored and managed by using smart home technology. It’s not only because smart home systems make it easier to adjust settings of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, or automating the lights to respond to motion. It’s because of the information you have available about the home without any extra effort, which in turn enables monitoring and managing such a home efficiently.
Information is power and when serious about living green, it makes sense to investigate adding smart home automation to a green home. It allows you to maximise the energy-efficiency of the home and gather valuable information that helps refine every element of their green designs. It’s clear that green smart homes are setting the standard for future home developments.
A green smart home is one that combines both eco-friendly features and technologies with smart home technologies. The concept is still new to the South African market, and offers various benefits for savvy homebuyers. Not only is a green smart home energy efficient and cost-effective, the addition of a smart home technology system makes it easy to monitor and efficiently manage the green smart home feature’s resource consumption to maximise the monthly savings.
With only a few of these homes on the market, here are some cost-effective features making them sound investments.
We would expect an eco-friendly home to be fitted with photovoltaic solar panels. Energy-efficiency is at the top of the list when shopping for a green home. It’s not essential for all of our power needs to be provided for by a photovoltaic solar system. Research concluded that a grid-tied system is the most practical solution. A grid-tied system provides the homeowner with a balance of energy-efficiency and energy-reliability.
Although the technology has come a long way, photovoltaic systems are still pricey. To install a fully off-the-grid system would require a hefty initial investment. That’s partly due to the fact that we would need to add either more photovoltaic panels or more batteries. Either of these require installation space. Batteries are used to store the power generated by the panels during the day to power the home at night. And also power the home when the sun is blocked out for extended periods. It’s these additional photovoltaic and specialised batteries that are pricey.
A grid-tied system is recommended. During the day, the photovoltaic solar panels provide free electricity. Once the sun sets, the system automatically switches over to the backup batteries. When the batteries reach the lower threshold, the system, again automatically switches over to the municipal supply. To make provision for when tiered electricity tariffs are introduced, the system design especially caters for using the home’s own energy during peak periods – approx. 05h00 to 08h00 and 17h30 to 19h30, so we enjoy an uninterrupted supply of power, for free, or at the lowest service provider tiered prices. Furthermore, another design feature is to feedback into the grid the excess self-generated power.
Combining a heat pump and the linked-loop hotwater system, enables you to have hot water throughout the home immediately on tap. Heat pumps are remarkably efficient. They require very little energy to heat up the water in the tank. Producing hot water is a large part of the electricity consumption. Using an alternative, such as a heat pump dramatically reduces energy consumption and thus the home’s monthly running costs.
Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling
Traditional homes rely on energy-hungry appliances to maintain the temperature inside the home at a comfortable level. In winter we drag out heaters and electric blankets while in summer we switch on air-conditioners to provide relief from the soaring temperatures. Or possibly use air-conditioners all year round. Installing a Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system consists of a network of pipes which is used to take hot or cold water to maintain desired temperatures. [The heat pump also produces the cold water.]
We’re able to monitor and manage the system by setting a comfortable temperature, as and when required.. Each of the home’s zone’s temperature is individually adjustable to provide their required temperature and comfort. The system is energy-efficient and effective. In winter, it’s possible to walk barefoot on the warm tiles. This simply isn’t possible in a traditional home without resorting to expensive underfloor heating or air-conditioning that uses a significant amount of electricity.
Once again, this demonstrates luxurious green living, which focusses on comfort while using resource efficiently, thereby reducing monthly running costs. Eco-friendly homes are designed to use resources efficiently. Such homes are more expensive to purchase, though over the long-term, the benefit of momentous monthly savings on power make green smart homes sound investments. This is particularly attractive when considering that prices for these basic services will continue to rise.
With South Africa currently experiencing its worst drought in 23 years, saving water ia a priority. Having access to fresh, clean water is a large part of what makes our modern lives comfortable. Take a moment to consider how many different ways we use water in our home every day; for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning.
Eco-friendly homes use a variety of methods to reduce water consumption. This includes the use of low-flow shower heads and taps to rainwater harvesting used to flush toilets, for the washing machine, and garden irrigation. These features improve comfort or convenience.
The rainwater harvesting tanks cab be installed underground so that it doesn’t take up valuable space. The tank is well-constructed and not prone to damage or leaking. The roof gutters and slab downpipes channel water to the tank. The design maximises the collection and storing of rainfall in the area. This is an example of how eco-friendly homes work with the environment.
The tank itself requires almost no maintenance as it is equipped with self-cleaning filters. The rainwater management system is connected to the municipal supply to ensure a constant supply of water. The rainwater management system switches over automatically, from rainwater to municipal water and vice versa..
It’s always a good idea to increase water savings by completing your home with a water-wise garden. A water-wise garden is one that uses indigenous plants that are accustomed to local weather conditions. These native plants are able to withstand dry periods and local insects as opposed to foreign plants. The garden has almost no lawn, instead it contains well designed walkways, reducing the amount of water needed to maintain the garden. Aforementioned makes for a garden that is easier to maintain and to care for.
Smart home technology
While the green features are effective on their own, the addition of a smart home technology system serves to enhance them. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system, the heat pump, the rainwater harvesting and the water pump can be connected to the software. This provides you with two important abilities:
- The ability to monitor consumption
Information is a powerful tool and with smart technology we have instant access to the home’s data. The system constantly collects information about power consumption and the level in the water tank. These are available at a glance – how much electricity and water is being using. This is available for right now, and back over time, for the current day, weeks, months and years
Without a smart home technology system, it is impossible to gather this type of information manually. And it provides us with an accurate, up-to-minute picture of how much electricity and rainwater we’re using. With this information, we’re able to make important decisions.
For example, though the effects of adjusting the Hydronics temperature is completed within 24-72 hours, we’ll immediately see the effect that reducing or increasing the temperature inside the home has on the power consumption. This enables us to adjust the temperature with a half or full degree to balance the comfort with the power consumption, instead of waiting for 24 – 72 hours. Imagine how useful this is when working out how much energy and money it takes to run our home? Not only does it increase our monthly savings, it also makes our home energy-efficient.
- The ability to manage our home remotely
The beauty of the smart home technology is that it comes with an app. With the ability to monitor and manage your home from within the home and remotely. You are able to install and run the app from your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
In an age where we’re increasingly using our smart devices and laptops, it stands to reason this convenience is extended to our homes. And with further customisation, the green smart technology is able to provide other conveniences.
It is possible to extend the system to include some of the other features too which include security and convenience. It is flexible, powerful and focused on reducing the monthly running costs. Simply being able to monitor and manage adjusting various aspects of the home makes it easy for homeowners to efficiently manage their home. As aforementioned, like having the ability to balance electricity consumption comfort and cost.
It is best to seamlessly blend the best of both green technologies and smart home technology and work with the environment to create a space that is eco-friendly and luxurious.
The grid-tied solar panels with the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system and the underground rainwater harvesting tank maximises the use the available resources. And the smart home technology system adds an extra layer of monitoring, managing and customisation creating a home that is eco-friendly and ahead of its time.
Investing in a green smart home provides us with instant savings on our monthly running costs and additional savings in the future as costs rise. It’s a home that increases in value as more people realise the benefit of living in a green smart home.