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.
Heat pumps are designed to work off air temperature. They use a minimal amount of electricity and work like air-conditioners in reverse.
The heat pump is usually mounted outside the house where it comes into contact with free-flowing air. Hot air is drawn into the heat pump, where it then passes over a refrigerant. The refrigerant boils and evaporates, heating up a condenser coil which heats water in the tank – and warm water then flows to the taps.
Dual function heat pumps heats water, cools water down, or heats and cools water at the same time. This leads to twice as much efficiency.
And while it isn’t convenient to climb into the ceiling to turn down the thermostat, in a smart green home, the adjustment is easily made on a smartphone/computer.
The ability to heat up or cool down any area within the home is a special feature. This is achieved through Hydronics radiant heating and cooling, which is a water-based method of temperature control that uses almost no electricity. This is also an eco-friendly method.
The water in this system won’t cost much as it is circulated through the system over and over.
The home is divided into areas called ‘zones’. These zones have temperature control options which are adjusted, meaning that each zone has a different temperature if required. And as the hydronics system is installed below the surface of the floor, any temperature adjustments are felt within a short period of time.
Rooms are insulated, in order to maintain the set temperatures. Double-bricked walls and Lambdaboard in between the walls create doubly-effective insulation, and this means a further saving on electricity.
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.
Electricity usage is reduced with energy conservation, and smart technology is useful in reducing usage to an even larger extent.
With smart technology, data is continuously collected. An app, laptop, desktop and/or smart devices are used to view information. Data is available per minute, hour, day, over weeks, months and even years. Patterns are thus identified and managed.
As an example, if we increase the temperature within the home at the start of the cold season, the hydronics radiant heating and cooling system takes 24-48 hours to adjust to the new temperature. When the new temperature is reached, the data on the new electricity usage is available almost immediately. Whilst maintaining the comfort within the home, we then lower the temperature by a few degrees or so to save on electricity usage. We thus do not have to wait for the monthly bill before we become aware of the costs.
Thus, smart technology provides added convenience and cost-saving.
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:
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.
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.
Despite the lack of rolling blackout in recent months, South Africa is still facing a power crisis. Investing in eco-friendly homes with photovoltaic solar panels is one solution to the problem. Though these homes are more expensive than traditional ones. If you’re a first time home buyer, does it make sense to splurge now and to save in the future? Here’s everything you need to know about owning a photovoltaic solar powered home.
The advantages of photovoltaic solar power
Beyond the obvious savings on the monthly electricity bill, photovoltaic solar power makes sense for a number of good reasons. Eco-friendly homes that run on photovoltaic power systems include the following benefits for homeowners:
Never run out of electricity
As long as the sun is shining, we’ll be able to run the home. The sun is a renewable source of energy unlike coal and gas. It’s not subject to price increases, and isn’t likely to run out any time in the next 5 billion years!
Get paid for excess electricity
In the future, we may get paid by the national supplier when generating more electricity than required, by feeding that excess back into the grid. Adopting green living habits could prove to be profitable.
Many Electicity Suppliers are already paying for excess electircity to be fed back into the grid.
Always have electricity when needed
By adding backup batteries to the photovoltaic solar system, excess energy is stored for use during the evenings. And when batteries aren’t installed, by using a hybrid grid-tied system, switching between photovoltaic solar power and the grid is enabled. That way electricity is always available.
Low maintenance costs
While photovoltaic solar panels seem futuristic, they are easy to care for. With few moving parts, there’s little chance that of spending a fortune on repairing or replacing parts. The only thing needed is to keep the panels free of dust and debris. If the panels are dirty they won’t absorb as much energy from the sun. All it takes to keep the panels clean is a hose and a little soapy water. Eco-friendly houses are generally cheaper and easier to maintain.
New developments are finding ways to integrate photovoltaic solar power and other green living features into the design of a home. Rainwater harvesting tanks, for instance, are installed underground to ensure they don’t detract from the appearance of eco-friendly houses. The benefits of photovoltaic solar power has resulted in more homeowners retrofitting this green technology to their existing homes.
ROI of a photovoltaic solar power system
After a few years, monthly savings on electricity pays for the photovoltaic solar power system – thus it pays for itself. Depending on the size of the system ROI is within five to eight years. Calculating current electricity costs over say 10 years, adding a modest price increase; keeping in mind the home is fully temperature controlled too, is an easy indication of the ROI period.
After that, savings continue progressively as the price of electricity increases. Keeping in mind when the green smart home is sold on, the cost of the green features is fully recouped. Living green adds value in surprising ways.
The photovoltaic solar power system will last for many years
Photovoltaic solar panels are built to last for many, many years. Improvements in the technology will bring the cost of components down over time. Nevertheless, we’re able to start saving by installing a photovoltaic solar power system.
How does solar power work?
Greener living is the way to go. Photovoltaic solar power is a main green feature. Broadly speaking, here is how it works.
The sun operates like a nuclear reactor, sending out packets of energy known as photons which reach the surface of Earth in eight-and-a-half minutes. Every hour, enough photons bombard our planet to satisfy global energy needs for a whole year!
Such a system is made up of photovoltaic solar panels and an inverter. The panels capture the energy from the sun and transform it into Direct Current. The inverter takes this and converts it into Alternating Current. It is this Alternating Current that is used to power the appliances in the home.
How much do solar panels cost?
There is no standard answer to this question. It all depends on how much power is needed to provide for a family’s needs. When designing eco-friendly houses, developers take the following into consideration:
- How much sun does the rooftop receive?
- What is the size of the roof?
- How much power is required?
- What is the budget?
- Whether it’s a hybrid grid-tied system?
- Whether backup batteries are required?
- Whether smart technology is required?
These are the questions to consider when investigating the idea of installing a photovoltaic solar power system; to an existing property or when it’s being designed for a ready-built eco-friendly home.
Which solar power system is the best?
There is a choice of three systems. Let’s take a closer look at them:
Stand-alone photovoltaic solar system
This type of photovoltaic system is also known as an ‘off-grid’ system. It operates independently of the national grid and makes use of backup batteries to store the power generated by the photovoltaic solar panels during the day. This means solar energy is used to run the home late into the night and during periods of bad weather.
Hybrid grid-tied system
The system works with the national grid. It reduces the electricity bill and is able to switch over to the national supply when needed.
The system also acts as a backup during load shedding and power disruptions.
Ideal green smart system: hybrid grid-tied, photovoltaic with battery backup
When implementing a photovoltaic solar system, adding backup batteries and tying these to the grid, is the ideal green smart home system.
Such a system works like this:
During the day, the photovoltaic system runs the green home directly from the sun. Excess power is stored in the backup batteries. When the backup batteries are replenished, further self-generated excess power is fed into the grid, accumulating a credit with the grid service provider. On most days, by 11h00 the backup batteries are loaded and excess is going to the grid. From around 18h30 the home is run from the backup batteries. Once the batteries reach their evening threshold, the grid is used; first depleting the previously earned credit. Thereafter the grid usage is paid for. The backup batteries evening threshold allows for battery power to run the home during the morning peak period, after which the sun kicks in again. This cycle is repeated each day.
By designing the system to use the home’s own electricity during the morning and evening peak periods, should tiered electricity tariffs be implemented, the highest tariffs is never paid!
The number of photovoltaic solar panels and backup batteries installed is calculated based on evening usage and how much excess is fed into the grid. This is the ideal green smart electricity system. Becoming independent of the grid on own terms.
How much will I save?
The main reason for investing in any kind of green technology comes down the savings. When determining whether spending a substantial amount of money on a photovoltaic system is worth it, understanding the potential savings is necessary. With photovoltaic solar power there are three areas where savings are achieved:
As mentioned earlier, monthly savings will be determined by how much energy is needed to run the home. The up-front cost of installing a photovoltaic solar system will be offset by the savings. The more that is spent on electricity now, the more the savings are in the future.
Photovoltaic solar systems require little maintenance so apart from the initial installation costs, there is the maintenance costs.
Although it’s not a direct saving, the cost of the photovoltaic system is incorporated in the property value when selling it on. Eco-friendly homes will become more valuable as the trend grows in South Africa, resulting in higher resale values.
- Avoid future price increases
The cost of electricity will continue increasing. Though South Africans have enjoyed cheaper electricity for years, that’s changing. Opting for photovoltaic solar power arrests any future price increases.
Green living is here to stay. It’s a real solution to the challenges we face of limited resources that will become more expensive in the future. To maintain our standard of living, it’s worth embracing green living philosophies to reduce our dependence on these resources without sacrificing comfort.
Photovoltaic solar energy makes a lot of sense for home buyers and existing home owners. Be prepared for the future!
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.
You may have heard of green homes. Eco-friendly houses that are built using green principles to conserve resources and reduce running costs are slowly gaining traction in South Africa and around the world. As the green trend develops, smart technologies are being incorporated into green homes to enhance their efficiency. The two work well together to enable monitoring and efficiently managing power and water resources. What does this mean for homeowners?
Green homes are desirable because they use resources efficiently. This is particularly important when it comes to power consumption. An ordinary home relies on the municipal electricity supply. As the price of electricity continues to rise, homeowners are looking for ways to reduce their consumption and to save money. And become less dependent of the resource providers. Investing in a green smart home maximises the conservation of precious energy and saves money in the process.
The smart technology continuously collects consumption data. The information is available on an app, on a laptop, desktop, and smart devices for any period. Up to the minute, hour, day, over weeks, months and years the information is available and enables extensive monitoring of the resources to track and immediately identify patterns. This information is invaluable to efficiently manage resource usage. Thereby providing facts to make important decisions about how the home is run.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this. As the weather cools down at the start of winter, we’d want to increase the temperature inside the home. The Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system takes 24-48 hours to reach the newly required temperature. Almost immediately after adjusting to the newly required temperature, by monitoring the electricity usage it is possible to see how much more electricity it would use. By adjusting the temperature by a half to one degree or so while maintaining the comfort level within the home, it is possible to save on electricity costs. Without such a system, we’d need to wait for the next bill to see the cost of raising the temperature.
Bear in mind that green homes also make use of superior insulation to protect the home from temperature fluctuations. The comprehensive insulation prevents the loss of warm air in winter, and cool air during summer. This increases the efficiency of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system. Thus, the heat pump does not use excessive electricity to retain the home’s temperature as the seasonal outside temperature cools down or rises.
Being able to monitor and adjust the temperature of the home might be considered a luxury. Ultimately though, it’s the ideal way to maintain the comfort level without resorting to drastically increase energy consumption. The smart technology provides the easy monitoring and efficient managing and to fine tune every element of the home. Thus, comfort and luxury at momentous saving of monthly running cost.
Heat pumps generates hot and cold water. Heated water is used by the Hydronics and in the bathrooms and kitchen; cold water is used by the Hydronics. Heating and cooling of water accounts for a large portion of the total electricity bill. Having the ability to manage the temperature by half or a single degree presents yet another good opportunity for reducing the monthly running costs. Once again, the real advantage of the smart technology lies in its ability to collect data. Over time trends and patterns are visible. This allows for planning future needs, budgets and expenses.
The water temperature and temperatures throughout the home is adjusted from a laptop or smart device app which means there is no need to climb up into the ceiling, as with traditional houses, to manually adjust the geyser’s thermostat. These are some of the reasons why smart technology is used. It offers an added level of convenience for running a green home efficiently.
Making every drop count
It is essential to use water efficiently. Therefore, many green homes usually include a rainwater harvesting system. Untreated rainwater is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine. There are two significant benefits to using rainwater for these purposes. Firstly, it helps to conserve one of our most precious resources by making efficient use of water which would otherwise be lost. Secondly, it presents homeowners with the opportunity to reduce the effects of water restrictions and price hikes.
Rainwater is free and green Homes shoul have rainwater tanks to capture and store rainwater. The rainwater harvesting system should be connected to the municipal supply, so the home always has access to water. Without the necessary sensors, it is cumbersome to monitor the water levels in an underground tank.
A rainwater level sensor needs to be installed in the tank that connects to the smart technology system. This enables the monitoring of the level and usage of the harvested rainwater in the tank simply by logging in and checking the data. This information is stored and enables seeing how the levels fluctuate over a period of days, weeks, months, and years. This information is used to adjust and manage rainwater usage. This is up to the minute data and is an accurate picture of how much rainwater is used. Calculating how much water is required for a water-wise indigenous garden then enables adjusting the irrigation exactly according its water requirements. Usually saving multiple times the water used for the garden when based on guesswork.
Efficiently managing resource usage
Until we have experience of green homes and smart home technologies, it’s difficult to understand how practical and convenient it is, how empowering it is, how efficiently resources are managed to maximise saving of monthly running costs. The aim of using smart-home technology features helps to increase the effectiveness of the green features. Smart technology with the green home features is based on an easily extendable smart technology infrastructure which in turn enables home automation capabilities, in addition to the green smart home monitoring and management.
For example, it is possible to use the smart technology for added security. It’s simply a matter of adding the relevant interior and exterior movement sensors and connecting them to the system. When the sensors are triggered, in addition to setting off an alarm that alerts us to an intruder, the following alerts are also possible.
Triggering the lights to come on, the blinds to open, and loud music to start playing: Thus, alerting anyone in the home and the neighbours, to a potential break in and has the potential to severely startle and repel the intruder.
Yet another way in which smart technology adds value to our homes. When we sell on our green smart home, this is a feature that is sure to appeal to future buyers.
Added convenience with an app
Smartphones, smart devices and personal computers have dramatically altered the way we stay in touch and access information. It’s therefore not surprising that smart home technology includes an app. This allows us to access the system from anywhere in the world through our smartphone, tablet or laptop. That means we could be away on holiday, or on the other side of the world, and still be able to monitor and manage our home.
We are able to adjust the various green features from the app. For example, adjust the temperature of a room simply by logging in and tapping away on our smartphone. The system is easy to use, and user friendly and doesn’t require any additional software. It’s simply a matter of downloading the app and logging into our account.
We have access to all the information that is being collected by the system from the beginning. Smart home technology isn’t complicated or time-consuming. In fact, every effort has been made to ensure it makes running our home simpler and convenient. When we’re familiar with social media, or the Internet we’ll have no trouble using the app to monitor and manage our home remotely from our laptop, smart phone and smart device.
Enhancing our green home
Ordinarily, smart home technology and automation may be seen as a luxury. We might think that it’s not necessary to adjust the temperature of the Hydronics Radiant heating and cooling system when we’re not physically at home
The true intention of the smart system is to increase the efficiency of the green features. The real power of the smart system lies in its ability to collect data on the way we use electricity and water in our home. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of green living, it’s easy to imagine that it’s all about saving money. In fact, there are real environmental benefits to conserving these resources.
Those who embrace these new green smart home technologies to monitor and manage their homes are able to enjoy the benefits of authentic green living. Although investing in a green smart home requires a larger investment initially, it is possible to recoup this through the momentous monthly savings. The green features and the smart home technology also adds value to our properties. Not only do we start saving money immediately, we’re able to command a higher price should we sell on our home. Future buyers will be on the lookout for green smart homes as the trend develops.
From the aforementioned it is fair to conclude that a smart green home offers more than the ability to save on monthly running costs. It gives us the opportunity to understand exactly how we use resources such as water and electricity to maintain our standard of living and lifestyle. We monitor and efficiently manage our home which allows us to adapt it to suit our needs.
Being able to create a comfortable, efficient home is a true luxury. While green homes offer us the ability to save money and resources, smart home technology takes it one step further. We maximise the efficiency of the green features included in the design and construction of our home. In the future, this will be the standard by which all homes are measured. Why merely invest in a green home? Rather invest in a green smart home!