From home to ‘smart home’ Automation can bring home many benefits and a new lifestyle.

smart-homes

Innovation has become the heart of the green energy movement. It has brought with it options that sometimes go beyond imagination. But which promise an easier and more secure life for those ready to embrace technology. For senior citizens or those with disabilities, technology can sometimes be a boon. Stephen Hawking, for instance, could not have achieved what he did if he had not befriended tech options to get ‘mind over body’. For busy home makers and office goers too, there is nothing like a little help from high-tech.

Yes, we are talking about the concept of ‘smart homes’ that helps you do a plethora of jobs at the same time. Apart from installing solar or wind energy and water harvesting, introducing automation at home is a good option. It gives you the ability to control climate, security, lights, and entertainment on a single device. With children and senior citizens at home, these are often combined with a surveillance device that informs you about the safety and security of your loved ones when you are away.

All this can be achieved by putting in place an automation system. There are several players in the market who provide the devices.  If you only want to use smart technology for your lights or for your geyser, that too is possible. A good technician could fit it for you. You don’t need to redo the house to introduce smart features in it. However, there are also technology companies now dealing exclusively in setting up smart homes for customers. They offer automation by using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology. But more about this later…

Apart from convenience, a big bonus from home automation is a decrease in the consumption of energy and hence lower electricity bills as well! And a bigger bonus is that it reduces your carbon footprint, ­helping you to participate in greening the world and mitigating climate change.

The advantages of home automation systems are many. On the energy front, first and foremost, you can regulate the lights and fans in your home. The system turns them on and off as and when family members enter and leave a room, making sure that electricity is not being wasted on an empty room. Room temperature too can be controlled with air conditioning and heating decreasing automatically if you are away.

You don’t need to redo the house to introduce smart features in it. Some technology companies now deal exclusively in setting up smart homes for customers.

The temperature changes can also be coordinated with other automated electronics such as the window shades, lamps, lights and fans. In fact, automated motorised window shades are very useful and just need the touch of a button to open and close. They can also be programmed to operate at peak efficiency by closing and opening automatically at specific times of the day.

Automation also gives you the luxury of an ‘All Off’ command. So, in case you have to leave home in a hurry during an emergency or are going on holiday, the system gives you the option of shutting down the entire home or modifying specific electronic devices with the click of the finger. It can also arm the home security system, so that you have nothing to worry about while you are out.

It is well known that appliances such as a toasters, microwaves, dryers and chargers when left on the plug drain out some amount of power even when they are in ‘off’ mode. According to some estimates, these can even represent five to ten per cent of your electricity bill. Home automation allows you to undo the appliance standby modes without you having to unplug each of them, and in turn helps lower your energy charges.

The most popular today are automation systems based on IoT. If you Google for smart home solutions several options come up and a choice could be made according to the city you live in. I checked out Smartify first, which offers an IoT based system. The company claims that this provides a lot of flexibility over wired systems and that there is ease of use and no wires running around or loose electrical connections. Next, I checked out Smartnerd, which also offers multiple solutions and a curated list of smart devices.

IoT systems consist of remote servers that are located on the internet and can be configured to control and monitor multiple sensors that would be installed wherever necessary in the home.  This main controller or gateway as it is called, is connected to the home router through an ethernet cable. The sensors receive commands through the gateway and perform the action that they have been automated to do. Smartify offers various packages at different price points — basic, advanced and premium — depending on the tasks that need to be automated.

Most green buildings today have these smart features embedded along with the construction itself, and often contribute to redefining how people live. But even in standalone houses or old flats, it is not exorbitant in the long run to transform your home into a ‘smart home’, enhancing your ­comfort zone.

The writer is a senior journalist who writes on environmental issues.

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