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Saving Energy With Smart Home Devices

Why Save Energy?

Your home's energy bill is probably one of the most costly you get, and it's only going to get worse as energy prices continue to rise unless you take control and use your energy more intelligently.

There are two reasons why we as consumers want to save energy - the obvious one is to reduce our bills and the other is to help reduce greenhouse gasses and pollution. And if we're being totally honest, we won't spend money to make changes unless it's going to save us money at the same time!

Why Save Energy?

By hoping for the best and leaving your house to look after itself will waste energy and is simply a waste of your money!

Here's a simple test. Walk around your home - how many little red lights can you count? Sure it's nice to have those devices waiting in standby for you to turn them On, but those devices are using a stack of electricity - up to 20% of what they would if they were on. And they're either fully On or in standby for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!

Saving energy is quite straightforward and even simple changes can save you a lot of money.

Using Home Automation propels your home into the 21st Century, bringing comfort and convenience, as well as helping to reduce your energy usage and increasing your home's security.

This guide will discuss some of the key benefits of Smart Home Systems along with various ideas to inspire you. It will also offer some guidance on how to begin your Smart Home journey!

What Can A Smart Home Do For You?

You might think that it's not worth updating your existing lighting system to be Smart, adding Smart control to your appliances or improving your heating system with Home Automation.

Perhaps you're happy with the current setup - after all, it's working fine and nobody is complaining that the lights are inadequate or unsuitable, that appliances are using too much power or that the heating isn't keeping you warm when it needs to. That's completely understandable, but knowing what areas a Smart Home can cover, how they work and how they may help you to save energy might just change your mind!

Broadly speaking, how you use Home Automation to save energy can be broken down into the following areas - Lighting, Heating, Security, Appliance Control and Energy Monitoring.

With that in mind, let's answer some simple questions up front and, if we've peaked your interest, you can read on to find out more information.

Lighting

What Can A Smart Home Do For Your Lighting?

Do Smart Lighting Controls Save Energy?

Yes, it's a proven fact that using Home Automation to control your lighting system will reduce the amount of energy you consume. Even simple automatic events like turning off lights when a room is empty, or adjusting the dim level of lighting to suit the time of day can make a huge difference.

Will I Save Money By Using Smart Lighting

Yes, reducing the energy you consume will naturally have a knock on effect on your energy costs. It may not seem much but lots of small changes to how you use the lighting in your home can add up to a big saving on your monthly bills, especially with energy costs at an all time high.

How Difficult Is It To Install a Smart Lighting System?

This really depends on a number of factors, but the great thing about Smart Home Lighting (and indeed any "Smart" technology) is that you can start simple and progress from there. For example, swapping out a normal light bulb from a table lamp for a Smart Device such as a Smart LED Bulb or perhaps changing the lamp for a Smart LED Strip takes just a couple of minutes - but that easy to make change can begin your journey.

How Do Smart Lighting Systems Work?

The simple answer is - exactly the same as your existing lighting system. You'll still be able to control the lighting as you always have done, turning it on and off or adjusting the brightness if it's dimmable.

The difference is that you'll be able control the lighting more accurately (for example by setting the dim level to a specific percentage like 60%), make changes to your lighting schedule from anywhere in the world (for example turning on outside security lighting), use your location to automatically turn the lights off and on when you leave and return home and all manner of other Smart actions.

Does Turning Off Lights Save Money?

Of course! Turning off lights when they are no longer required or setting them to a lower brightness can save energy and therefore money, but realistically who wants to be constantly running around their home and manually switching off lights or constantly adjusting the dim level?

Using Home Automation to control your Lighting System is a much better option. A Smart Home Controller can monitor every room and automatically turn the lights on when the room is in use and then turn them off again once everybody has left.

The brightness level can also be automatically and intelligently controlled in order to ensure only just enough light is provided to suit the task. For example getting up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom likely only needs a low level of light, perhaps 10%, just so you can see your way. That will save you 90% of the energy used if they were turned on fully! Plus, it's much kinder on your eyes.

Does Making Your Home Smart Add Value?

That's a really good question, especially in the current financial climate as it's difficult to justify spending money.

Based on our experience we'd suggest that adding value to the worth of your home is a secondary benefit as opposed to a primary reason for adding Smart Home Technology.

As long as the additions have a positive impact on things like saving energy, comfort, security and convenience, it should be easy to demonstrate to any potential future purchaser that your house is a better prospect than an equivalent property that doesn't have any Home Automation installed.

Heating

What Can A Smart Home Do For Your Heating?

Do Smart Heating Controls Save Energy?

Yes, it's a proven fact that using Home Automation to control your heating system will reduce the amount of energy you consume. Even a single automatic event like lowering the temperature in your home as soon as everybody has left for work for the day can make a big difference.

Will I Save Money By Using Smart Heating

Yes, reducing the energy you consume will naturally have a knock on effect on your energy costs. It may not seem much but even a small amount can add up to a big saving on your monthly bills, especially with energy costs at an all time high.

How Difficult Is It To Install a Smart Heating Control?

This really depends on a number of factors such as the type of heating system you have, but the great thing about Smart Home Heating (and indeed any "Smart" technology) is that you can start simple and progress from there. For example, swapping out a normal TRV head for a Smart TRV takes just a couple of minutes - but that easy to make change can begin your journey.

How Do Smart Heating Systems Work?

This will depend on the type of heating system that you have in your home and how you wish to add Home Automation to it.

For example, in a hot-water radiator based system you might choose to simply replace the existing thermostat with a Smart Device and once that's complete it will essentially work the same as the original one, controlling the heating to suit the temperature you set.

The difference is that you'll be able control the temperature more accurately, make changes to your heating schedule from anywhere in the world, use your location to automatically turn the heating off and on when you leave and return home and all manner of other Smart actions.

What Is The Cheapest Way to Run Your Heating?

This is a tough question to answer as it depends on many factors, but broadly speaking ensuring that your heating system is running efficiently and optimally will result in the least amount of energy being used. In turn, that will make sure that you're only paying what you absolutely need to for your gas or electricity costs.

Does Turning Off Radiators Save Money?

Turning off radiators will give the heating system less to do because the water in those radiators will be isolated from the rest. This can save energy and therefore money, but realistically who wants to be constantly running around their home and manually operating radiators?

Using Home Automation to control your Heating System is a much better option. A Smart Home Controller can monitor every room and automatically adjust a Smart TRV so that it administers just the right amount of hot water flow to keep the room at a comfortable temperature. This temperature can be changed appropriately, perhaps set to a lower level when the room is unoccupied and a higher level when the room is in use. Once the desired temperatuer is reached the Smart TRV will turn the radiator off, saving energy and money.

Is It Better To Insulate My Home Or Use Smart Heating?

That's a really good question, especially in the current financial climate as it's difficult to know where you can get the best "bang for your buck"

There's no doubt that improving the insulation in your home will make it more energy efficient, but making great structural changes to your home in order to do that can be messy, disruptive and expensive.

On the other hand, adding Smart control to your existing heating system can be relatively straightforward and doesn't have to cost a fortune - simply swapping out a standard TRV for a Smart TRV costs very little, is easy to do and can bring immediate savings.

Security

What Can A Smart Home Do For Your Security?

How Difficult Is It To Install a Smart Security System?

This really depends on a number of factors, but the great thing about Smart Home Security (and indeed any "Smart" technology) is that you can start simple and progress from there. For example, installing a Smart Door Sensor takes just a couple of minutes as all you have to do is insert the batteries and stick the sensor parts to the door or window - but that easy to make change can begin your journey.

I'm Always Forgetting To Set The Alarm, Can A Smart Security System Help?

Absolutely!

Using Home Automation for your Home Security System will allow it to monitor when your house is unoccupied and automatically set the alarm system for you.

You can also use "geo-fencing" whereby your Smart Home System will known when you have returned home so that it can turn off the alarm, open the driveway gates and turn on the outside lighting if it's dark.

Can My Security System Be Completely Automatic?

A Smart Home Security System certainly can! Once configured (usually by following simple to understand concepts such as schedules, scenes, rules, actions or flows), a Smart Home Controller will autonomously manage your security to ensure your home meets your required comfort and convenience levels.

Typically this set-and-forget type of operation will automatically monitor your rooms and even the members of your family, automatically arming and disarming based on who's at home and which rooms are occupied.

How Do I Set Up A Smart Home Security System?

Setting up a Smart Home Security System is usually very simple. Most people start with the controller (sometimes called a hub, bridge or gateway) and these are typically plug-and-play - you take them out of the box, connect them to power and the Internet and follow the setup wizard to get up and running in no time at all!

After that, adding your first Smart Home device will likely be just as easy. If you're lucky your controller will have step-by-step guides for setting up different device types, but even if it doesn't then the Smart Home device itself will probably have one specific to it.

Most devices will need to be powered on (either by inserting the batteries or connecting to the AC mains) and then put into "pairing" mode, after which they'll appear in your controller ready for use.

Once up and running it's time to set up your Security logic, so start with something simple like turning the device on at a specific schedule, or perhaps in reaction to another device like a door sensor changing from "closed" to "open".

Appliance Control

What Can A Smart Home Do For Your Appliance Control?

What's The Point In Using Smart Sockets On My Appliances

By adding a Smart Device to appliances such as TV's, game consoles and other such items, you can turn them off automatically when they aren't in use. This will prevent them from using parasitic "standby" energy and help to reduce your electricity consumpation.

Will using Home Automation To Manage Appliances Really Save Money?

Absolutely! By reducing the energy consumed by appliances when they aren't being used you'll naturally reduce your overall energy consumption, which in turn will reduce your monthly bills. It may not seem like it can make a difference but with energy costs at an all time high, even small changes can have a dramatic impact.

How Much Will It Cost To Save Energy?

The great thing about implementing a Smart Home is that you can do it gradually over a period of time, thus minimising the costs.

Realistically most people don't have the funds available to make huge changes to their homes and install a complete top-to-bottom Home Automation system so starting out with just a couple of Smart devices is a great way to begin your Smart Home journey.

As long as you choose industry standard and widely recognised technologies such as Z-Wave and Zigbee you'll be able to expand your Home Automation setup to cover more areas as funds become available.

Is Setting Up A Smart Home Complicated?

No! If you can plug in a few sockets, put batteries in a few devices and run through a few questions on your PC, smart phone or tablet then you should be able to get a basic Smart Home system up and running with little effort.

After that it's mostly just a case of taking time, doing a bit of research on the Internet and watching a few tutorial videos. Start simple with some basic Home Automation tasks such as scheduling lighting or heating and build your knowledge over time, before tackling the more challenging stuff.

Energy Monitoring

What Can A Smart Home Do For Your Energy Monitoring?

Is It Possible To Monitor The Electricy That My Home Uses?

Yes, there are various options to do this and most will give you real-time up to date information that allows you to see exactly what your house is using.

This can be useful to give an idea of what individual appliances are doing - turn the TV on and see how much the real-time electric usage increases.

How Do I Monitor The Electric Used By Individual Appliances?

A simple way to do this is plug the appliance in to a Smart Socket that has energy monitoring built in. This will give you a real-time reading of that the appliance is using.

Can I See How Much Gas I'm Using?

Yes, there are options to monitor gas too, although for gas usage it's not really something that you can control directly unlike electricity. Typically to make savings in gas usage it's best to concentrate on optimising the things that use gas, for example the heating and hot water systems.

I'd Like Finer Monitoring Of My Electric Usage At the circuit Level, Is That Possible?

You can either use multi-clamp CT meter device where each clamp measures a specific circuit or you can use DIN rail mounted modules where the module measures the energy used by the specific circuit.

How Much Energy Do My Lights Use?

By using Smart Lighting suche as Smart LEDs, Smart Modules or Smart Light Switches you can see how much electricity each light uses in real-time. While this can be useful, it's often better to concentrate more on using your Smart Home to reduce the amount of time the lighting is used.

For example lowering the brightness level to take into account ambient light levels, only turning lights on for the time that they are needed while somebody is in the room, making sure that lights are turned off when they're no longer required, etc.


Exploring The Benefits Of Using Home Automation For Energy Saving

We already touched on the main areas where a Smart Home System can help to save energy, so let's dig deeper into those next.

Exploring The Benefits Of Using Home Automation For Energy Saving

Using Home Automation For Lighting

Perhaps the biggest energy use in most homes will be lighting, because unless you enjoy living in the dark you'll use your lights every day of the year, often for hours and hours at a time. Making your lighting work for you intelligently will therefore help you to reduce your energy bills. Lights only need to be on when you need them and they can be automatically dimmed to save energy. There's also no chance of having lights left on wasting electricity - making sure that your loft lighting is definitely OFF when you shut the hatch after storing away your Christmas decorations for another year!

One thing to bear in mind is that you can start off as simple as you want - just a single light bulb swapped out or a single light switch changed can set you off on the path of turning your lighting from DUMB to SMART!

Ideas for using your Smart Home Lighting for Saving Energy:

  • Understand where your lighting usage is costing you money.
  • Automatically turn off lighting when a room is empty.
  • Configure varying lighting levels depending on the time of day - the lights can be at a low brightness at 3am to facilitate a trip to the bathroom.
  • Have an "All Off" Scene that turns off all your lights, as well as any other appliances, then make this run automatically when your house alarm is armed.
  • Use existing lighting for security - do you really need that 500W security light in the garden to deter potential intruders when turning on the living room overhead light instead will have the same impact?
  • Add control to your table and standing lamps so that the become the "go to" lighting for your rooms, minimising the use of the more power hungry overhead lighting.

Using Home Automation For Heating

It's easy to see how much electricity is wasted in the average home - parasitic "standby" power consumption from TVs, gaming systems, stereos and even phone / tablet chargers can mount up to be hundreds of Watts! In turn this can add a huge amount to your monthly energy bills, which can often be a shock since the effect builds up cumulatively over time - just compare your current energy bill with one from twelve months ago and you'll probably be surprised at the increase in usage.

If all or parts of your heating system use electricity then it's obvious that adding Smart Control to them can quickly bring energy savings simply by being able to minimise the power usage, perhaps heating your home to a higher temperature during overnight off-peak periods when electricity costs you less. Then during peak periods turn the heating off completely or run it at much lower temperatures, relying on the latent heat that's built up to keep it at a moderate temperature.

When it comes to energy wastage from other types of heating system though, it can be a little more challenging to visualize. Heating your home is likely something that you take for granted so you just leave it alone doing its thing. Whether you're using gas, oil or some other source, if you compare your energy bills over the last few years though and we bet you'll see some significant rises.

In most cases you're not going to be in the position to make huge changes to your heating system. Of course upgrading your boiler, changing your radiators for more efficient ones, adding cavity wall insulation and extra roof insulation can have a greater impact in reducing waste, but can come at a high cost! Looking at the potential savings can therefore end up not looking very attractive, not many people are going to want to spend 10's of thousands just to save a few hundred a year.

Updating your Heating System to a Smart one usually doesn't cost that much in comparison and in many cases you can do it in phases over a period of time. An initial outlay of a few hundred could be recouped in savings within the first year, so after that you're essentially making money from it - just a single TRV swapped out or a single Thermostat changed can set you off on the path of turning your heating from DUMB to SMART!

Ideas for using your Smart Home Heating for Saving Energy:

  • Understand where your heating system is costing you money.
  • Automatically turn Off radiators, UFH (underfloor heating) or electric panel heaters when a room is empty.
  • Configure varying temperatures depending on the time of day - early morning when you're getting up and late at night when you're going to bed can be at a higher temperature, but other times can be much lower.
  • Have an "All Off" Scene that turns off your heating, all your lights, as well as any other appliances, then make this run automatically when your house alarm is armed.
  • Monitor and control your hot water system to make sure it's only heating water at times when you'll actually be using it.
  • Create temperature profiles for each of your rooms to suit their uses - the kitchen and bathroom can likely be at lower temperatures than the rest of the house as they usually have other sources of heat (oven, boiler, towel warmers, etc).

Using Home Automation For Security

Safety and Security are clearly the primary focuses of a Smart Home Security System, but it's not all about burglaries and break-ins - the system will also cover things like property damage and trespassing. Additional benefits are safety related things like smoke, carbon monoxide and fire detection. If the system detects any issues it can raise the alarm by sounding sirens and sending text or email alerts so that everything is covered. A Smart Home Security System no longer relies on a simple siren - you can be alerted immediately no matter where you are, even on the beach on the other side of the world!

Smart Home Security means that you can have lighting operate automatically at night or when you're away from home to increase the security of your house. Light up those dark areas if motion is detected and if you're away on holiday, you can have the lights turn on and off at irregular intervals, making it look like your house is still occupied.

Of course, you can also have your lights activated if dangers are detected. Smoke, CO, fire and heat sensors can send an alert to the system which then turns all the lights on allowing you to more easily find your way out of the house.

Smart Home Security Systems can also be extended so that you have more control over how your home is accessed, when and by who. Smart Access Control Systems and Smart Wireless Locks give you a much safer way of securing your home's doors, gates and garage access. They allow you to remotely control access and monitor who is coming and going from your home.

Smart Wireless Locks also offer much more flexibility compared to traditional locks. They can all be operated from a smartphone, and can often also incorporate a PIN code keypad or even RFID tags / cards. You can also operate them remotely allowing you to give access to parts of your home, even when you're away - you can even allow access using PIN codes that only work between certain hours on particular days of the week. This is ideal for people that only require temporary access to your home such as cleaners, gardeners or parcel delivery drivers.

Even though the above benefits are obvious, it's not immediately clear how Smart Home Security can be used to save energy! The beauty of using Home Automation for Security is that the security aspects also work together with other parts of your Smart Home. If the sensors detect a break-in they can alert you, if they detect smoke, they can also open windows and turn lights on to help people get safely out of the building. The sensors used for security aren't limited to just that aspect, they can also be used all the time for motion activated lighting control and other aspects of Smart Home living.

Ideas for using your Smart Home Security for Saving Energy:

  • Control room lighting automatically to lower brightness or turn off completely based on whether the alarm system is set to Away mode or Home mode.
  • Make a "Bed Time" Scene that checks every light and ensures those that won't be needed overnight are turned off and then activates the security system into "armed home" mode.
  • Lower the heating setpoint temperature when the alarm system is set to Away mode, no point in paying to heat an empty house!
  • Turn off appliances once the alarm has been set to Away mode, then turn them back on again when the alarm is disarmed.

Using Home Automation For Appliance Control

It's amazing how much power is wasted in the average home - parasitic "standby" power consumption from TVs, gaming systems, stereos and even phone / tablet chargers can mount up to be hundreds of Watts! In turn this can add a huge amount to your monthly energy bills, which can often be a shock since the effect builds up cumulatively over time - just compare your current energy bill with one from twelve months ago and you'll probably be surprised at the increase in usage.

Using your Smart Home System to control appliances is a no-brainer - simply adding a Smart Socket or Smart Module to the appliance will allow Home Automation to turn them off automatically on schedule, in reaction to other events or evenby detecting when they are no longer in use.

Ideas for using your Smart Home Appliance Control for Saving Energy:

  • Use Smart Sockets to turn Appliances OFF, don't leave them in standby!
  • Automatically turn off Appliances when the house is empty - no point in leaving them on if there's nobody home.
  • Set your Appliances to be used when energy is available at a cheaper rate, for example during "Economy 7" periods.
  • Turn off entire rooms when they aren't in use - appliances, lighting, heating, etc - none of it is needed if there's nobody in there!
  • Closed blinds at sunset during the winter and sunrise during the summer. This can save up to 8% of the room's energy usage by preventing heat loss.

Using Home Automation For Energy Monitoring

Home Automation (by definition) can automate many areas that will help you save energy.

But what if you don't actually know where you're using more energy than you need it in the first place? Fortunately your Smart Home can also monitor where and how you use energy, helping you identify how you can make savings. You then set the system to control these areas and leave it to run, it really does look after itself, things just happen - silently saving you money.

Ideas for using your Smart Home Energy Monitoring:

  • Add a whole-home energy monitor to your consumer unit so that you can track exact electricity usage.
  • Monitor individual circuits in your consumer unit so you can see where your electricity is being used.
  • Monitor renewable energy sources such as Solar PV and turn on Appliances automatically when there's an excess of energy generation.
  • Use Smart Sockets to track energy usage of appliances in order to determine whether it's worth replacing them with more energy efficient versions.
  • See where the sweet spot is for lighting brightness - if 100% uses twice as much energy as 80% then perhaps 80% can be set as the maximum!

Implementing Smart Home Energy Saving

Adding Home Automation to your home real benefits and it's relatively easy to do using Smart Home systems and devices from Vesternet. Our Smart Home solutions deliver Home Automation to your home, whether you wish to carry out a house-wide installation of Smart devices or start small by replacing a few bulbs, adding some Smart TRV's to your radiators, or taking control of your appliances with some Smart Sockets.

Implementing Smart Home Energy Saving

If you're new to Smart Home and just starting out, then follow the steps below to begin your journey. Of course, if you're already a seasoned Smart Home user looking to expand your system to cover Smart Home Lighting then you may wish to jump ahead to step 3 and dive right in!

1) Getting Started With Smart Home Systems

The basic building blocks and components of any Smart Home will be similar. You will have a central "Controller", "Input" devices that tell you what is happening (motion, doors opening, temperature, humidity, light, etc) and "Output" devices that make things happen (turning on a light, switching off a socket, opening a door, etc).

As the name implies, the Controller, sometimes called the hub, gateway or bridge, "controls" your Smart Home. It enables you to add and configure devices and to create and run "logic", sometimes referred to as flows, scenes or moods. These enable the system to do things automatically, such as turn on lights based on motion or raise the heating temperature just before your family arrives home so that your house is nice and warm when they open the front door.

The Controller is connected to your Internet router or modem using WiFi or by an Ethernet cable. This allows you to control the system from a smartphone, tablet or computer and allows remote access even when you're away from home, via the Internet. In order to control the system from your smartphone or tablet you usually install an "App" for that Controller and this gives you control whether you're in the lounge or sitting on a beach on the other side of the world!

Your Controller may focus on one particular technology (for example Z-Wave), or it may have several different technologies built in (for example Z-Wave, Zigbee and WiFi). Choosing a Controller that supports these standards as a starting point is the best course of action for most Smart Homes, but remember to also check for integration possibilities with any proprietary products or systems that you might also plan to use (such as Hive, Tado or Visonic), for example using IFTTT or a Cloud service.

It's also worth noting our advice on "Voice Assistants". These are becoming increasingly popular, with many manufacturers now offering various different models of "Smart Speaker" or "Smart Screen" with their Voice Assistant built in. Many people get taken in by all the hype surrounding these and think that for a Smart Home they only need a Voice Assistant.

While this may be true in a limited set of circumstances (for example to control one or two WiFi Smart Home devices such as sockets or bulbs), you really need a Smart Home Controller for a true Smart Home experience!

For further information on getting started with a Smart Home, the following guides are well worth reading:

2) Technologies Used In Home Automation

There are a wide range of Smart Home technologies to choose from and this can be confusing to people new to Home Automation. Fortunately, this is less of a minefield than it used to be as many devices can now work with each other, even if the underlying technologies are different. This means that you don't need to know all the inner workings of particular products - you're able to choose the ones that suit you best.

Z-Wave

Z-Wave is a wireless communication technology that uses reliable, low-power radio waves that easily travel through walls, floors and furniture, meaning you don't have to rip-up carpets and floors to add new wiring.

Features such as two-way communication, status updates and mesh networking combine together to ensure reliability and resiliency in your Smart Home system - no more wondering whether the light in your garage really turned off when you closed the door!

The Z-Wave technology is being improved all the time and recent releases have offered increased range, greateer speed, improved battery life, stronger security and self-healing capabilities to keep the mesh network in optimal condition.

The majority of Z-Wave devices should work within the well-established Smart Home Controllers out-of-the-box - the protocol is designed to be backwards compatibile accross versions and uses standard "Command Classes" to define features and functionality. Sometimes, especially with newly released devices, there may be limited functionality until specific support for a device is added to the Smart Home Controller. This usually occurs quite quickly in the form of regular software updates from the Smart Home Controller manufacturer.

ZigBee

Zigbee is an open standard for a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh network targeted at the wide development of devices for wireless control and monitoring applications. It's backed by some of the worlds biggest companies, including Philips, Nest, Samsung, Texas, Siemens & Whirlpool.

With Zigbee based devices you get a robust, resilient and self-managing system. Zigbee devices are often much simpler than their Z-Wave counterparts, prefering to focus on specific tasks such as motion sensing or dimming a light, rather than trying to combine lots of different functionality into one device.

Simplicitly therefore makes compatibility much easier with Zigbee. Broadly speaking there are two Zigbee profiles in use - Zigbee Light Link (ZLL) and Zigbee Home Automation (ZHA). Devices within each profile should work together out-of-the-box and, as long as your Zigbee Controller supports a specific profile, devices from that profile should work within it.

There's also an emerging standard called Zigbee 3.0 which merges both the ZLL and ZHA profiles, combining the strengths of each into one new standard. In most cases Zigbee 3.0 devices are backwards compatible with Zigbee Controllers that only support ZLL or ZHA.

WiFi / Ethernet Network

WiFi and Ethernet (wired) Networks have spread widely in the past decade, you can "get connected" almost anywhere nowadays - at home, at work, in libraries, schools, airports, restaurants, hotels and even on-the-move in certain types of public transport.

The ubiquitous nature of WiFi and Ethernet make them an ideal technology for Smart Home devices and many devices are now featuring WiFi and Ethernet connectivity as vendors recognise that they can take advantage of your existing home Network. The chances are that you already have good Network coverage throughout your home using a mixture of WiFi and Ethernet, so it makes sense to use this Network, rather than you having to implement something else.

Broadly speaking, WiFi and Ethernet devices will use vendor specific communication protocols which means that compatibility is determined based on the manufacturer, so products from one manufacturer won't work with products from a different manufacturer.

That said, some WiFi and Ethernet devices also implement "open" communication protocols such as MQTT, so this allows them to work together with devices from a different manufacturer if they also support the MQTT protocol.

Cloud Connected

The Internet has become so tightly woven into our everyday lives that we probably interact with it every few minutes, possibly without even realising!

While it's obvious when you are using services such as FaceBook, Twitter and WhatsApp, many Smart Home devices now use Internet connectivity too - so the next time you adjust your Smart Home Heating Thermostat or check your Doorbell camera, you'll likely be interacting with a "Cloud Service" half way round the world.

Cloud Services allow manufacturers to centralise their infrastructure and tightly control security, features and functionality all in one location. It means that products can be made more affordable for the customer as the device has less to do locally, because the Cloud can carry out some or all of the functionality.

Cloud Connected devices will communicate securely with the manufacturer Cloud Service and when you wish to interact with them via your smartphone, tablet or web browser, you will also communicte securely with the manufacturer Cloud Service. This means that these types of device rely on the Internet for some, or sometimes even all, of their functionality.

Some Cloud Services also allow interaction with each other in a simple fashion using other, third party Cloud Services, such as IFTT, Microsoft Flow or Workflow. These can often help to bring together systems that would otherwise not be able to work with each other at all!

For further information on Smart Home Technologies, we suggest reading the following guides:

3) Considerations In Designing Your Smart Home System

When it comes to the actual task of implementing a Smart Home System to save energy, most poeple will split their journey into different sections - Lighting, Heating, Security, Appliance Control and Energy Monitoring.

Lighting

Broadly speaking lighting can take two different routes - "Plug And Play Lighting" and " Inline Lighting".

Plug And Play Lighting mostly consists of things that literally just "plug in" and can be used immediately i.e. there's no wiring involved. So things like plug sockets, dimmbable plug sockets, LED bulbs, LED strips, etc. Perhaps some battery powered devices like remotes, buttons and wall controllers.

On the other hand, Inline Lighting refers to things that will need physically installing and electrical wiring. Modules, replacement wall switches & dimmers, replacement sockets, etc are all examples of these types of device.

There's no doubt that Plug And Play Lighting is the easiest and simplest route to adding Smart control to your lighting! As mentioned above, there's no wiring involved at all, so devices just need to be unboxed and plugged in, then added to your Smart Home Controller.

On the other hand, Inline Lighting can be more complicated but in most cases this uses standard lighting wiring, so there is no need to rewire your home. That said, perhaps the first consideration is to decide whether you are heading down the DIY route, or would prefer to have a Professional Installation completed for you by a third party.

Smart Home Lighting typically uses "Modules" or full replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers and these will need to be connected directly to your home's electricial wiring system. So you'll need to consider whether you have the necessary skillset to complete this type of work safely and competently. You'll need some proficiency with electrical wiring, building and decorating as a minimum.

You'll need be able to specifically identify your existing wiring, which may require physically testing with a multimeter to see which wires are Permanent Live, Switched Live and optionally Neutral. If these terms don't mean much to you then you really need to be honest with yourself as to whether you think you'll be able to carry out the work!

If you're the sort of person that is comfortable with changing out a light switch or wall socket, or perhaps adding an additional wall socket to an existing electrical circuit, and isn't phased by needing to replace a pattress (back-box) by chiselling out the wall and making good afterwards, then the DIY approach might suit you.

For further information on Smart Home Lighting we recommend reading our Ultimate Guide To Smart Home Lighting Systems guide.

Heating

With Smart Home Heating things can get pretty complicated because it not only depends on what you're trying to achieve, but also on what type of heating system it is (electric, water based, Under Floor Heating, radiators, forced air, etc) and how the heating system was designed in terms of piping, valves, pumps, heat sources, tanks / cylinders and existing control systems.

If you already have a Z-Wave or Zigbee based Smart Home system in place or are planning to implement one for Lighting or Security then it can make sense to use Z-Wave or Zigbee for your Heating too as it makes for a nice consolidated setup.

That said, there’s a few things to be aware of when planning to add Smart Control.

Heating System Type

This sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how common it is for people not to have even a basic understanding of how their heating system works! Many people don't see beyond the "user facing" parts such as the Thermostat and timer, so if you fall into that category then perhaps it's best to call in an expert rather than attempting to upgrade the system yourself.

Boiler Type

If your heating system is water based then it's most likely using a boiler to heat the water. There are four main types of boiler based heating systems in common use, it's best to know which one you have before investigating how to control it with Home Automation!

Existing Heating System Controls

By this we mean how your heating system is currently controlled, which can vary from a simple timer / programmer with a remotely located Thermostat to much more complex controls including multiple valves, pumps, relays and Thermostats.

Of course, if your heating system is electric based then the controls are likely much simpler, perhaps just a plugin socket timer for an electric panel or a wired Thermostat for an electric UFH mat.

Ultimately it's the existing controls that you'll either be replacing with Smart versions, or adding Smart Control to, so this is an important part of the process to get right. It can help to draw a system diagram that shows all the various components to help visualise the configuration, even if you don't specifically know how things are wired just knowing which bit controls what will allow your project to progress.

What Do You need Your Home Automation Heating System To Cover?

A full multi-zoned heating system with high efficiency, intelligent logic control and ultimate flexibility is probably what you'd love to have, but it may not be what you actually need or what is practical to be installed in your home!

Without ripping up floors, running new pipes and electrical works, some homes just have to make do with what they've got, so fitting some simple level of Smart Control may be easier to install and still give you a decent boost in efficiency, comfort and convenience. So go for the system that makes practical sense for your home and remember, you can always expand it later as Z-Wave and Zigbee devices can be fitted at anytime.

As mentioned, heating can be a pretty complex subject in its own right, so we suggest checking out our dedicated Ultimate Guide To Smart Home Heating Systems guide.

Appliance Control

Generally speaking Appliance Control refers to things like TV's, stereos, AV receivers and white goods such as washing machines and dishwashers.

These all have what's known as "standby" mode where they are physically powered on and ready to spring into action at any minute. That's great for convenience but not so good for energy consumption since this parasitic power use can often go unnoticed and can amount to a significant cost!

By taking control of these appliances and turning them OFF when they're not actually in use you can make a big difference to the amount of electricity that your home is using and substantially reduce your bills.

While some appliances are hard wired directly to the mains, most simply plug into wall sockets and this makes them ideal candidates for a Smart Home upgrade as adding Smart Control is very simple. For those that are directly wired to the mains, refer to the "Lighting" section above for details on Smart Modules instead.

SmartSockets are one of the easiest to install "plug-and-play" devices available for your Smart Home. In most cases you literally just have to plug them in! And they can be used to control and monitor pretty much anything you can think of - lighting, appliances (such as dishwashers and washing machines), TVs and other AV equipment ... the list is endless. Combine them with other Smart Home devices like sensors and you can have full control of your home.

Typically there are three types of plug-in Smart devices - On / Off Sockets, Dimmer Sockets and Range Extenders - all pretty self explanatory in terms of which device to choose for a particular task, but it's worth taking a closer look.

On / Off Sockets

On / Off Sockets are physical switches, they include a set of switch contacts that physically open and close allowing you to control the power supplied to the connected load. These are incredibly versatile, they can be used anywhere that you wish to turn an appliance or load on and off - lights, pumps, appliances, etc.

On / Off Sockets are also useful where you wish to control lights that are not suitable for control from a Dimmer Socket such as fluorescent, LED or high power outside lights.

Dimmer Sockets

Dimmer Sockets, as the name implies, enable you to control the brightness of a light. As mentioned above, with Plugin Sockets you can start off as simple as you want - just a single Dimmer Socket added to a table or standing lamp will set you off on the path of Smart Home lighting. Most things can be automated easily, with the minimum of fuss, giving you quick results within minutes. It's also fun - we've never seen anyone not impressed when the lights turn on automatically to different levels as you enter a room!

Range Extenders

Range Extenders do exactly what they say - extend the range and coverage of a mesh based network such as one using Z-Wave or Zigbee. They can help immensely when constructing a good, reliable and stable mesh network as well as offering features such as range testing to help with optimal location.

As with any area of Home Automation, there's a few things to think about when implementing Appliance Control:

  • Load Type - Since On / Off Sockets are simple switches / relays, they're suitable for most load types including standard non-dimmable bulbs and appliances such as washing machines, TVs, computers, etc. You shouldn't use a Dimmer Socket with any non-bulb load type, so they aren't suitable for normal appliances.
  • Load Rating - Make sure to check the load rating of the Smart Socket, especially when looking to control appliances like dish washers which can use high amounts of energy. It's important not to run any Smart Device at or close to its maximum load rating for prolonged periods!
  • Physical Size - Bear in mind the physical size of the Socket, those with more features and functions tend to be larger, which might make it difficult to install two of them side-by-side on a double Socket or an extension lead.
  • Power Metering - Consider whether it's worth paying a little extra for power metering functionality as this allows you to control and monitor attached loads according to the power that they are consuming.
  • Bulb Type - Most Dimmer Sockets will only work with standard incandescent or halogen bulbs, they may produce unexpected and undesirable results with LED or other such energy-saving devices.
  • Do you really need Range Extenders? - Given that nearly all mains-powered mesh networking devices will repeat communication and thus improve the mesh network, consider whether adding a Range Extender will actually help. If you already have mains-powered devices in the location that you are intending to add a Range Extender then the chances are you don't need one! That said, Range Extenders only have one function and are therefore usually small devices without any external controls or features. This can help to prevent people from unplugging them inadvertantly or playing around with the controls on a normal Plugin Socket.

Energy Monitoring

Taking control of your energy usage can be one of the most statisfying uses of your Smart Home technology because you can use the data and information obtained to make real savings to your monthly bills.

Energy & Utility Sensors offer an accurate way to monitor energy but in some cases they'll need to be installed by a professional, for example some electricity sensors will need to be connected directly to your electricity supply.

In general, energy and utility sensors fall into three categories:

CT ("Current Transformer") Clamps

CT or "Clamp" Meters use small split circular clamps to wrap around the Live cable on an electric cable. This can be a main incoming supply, an individual circuit or even an individual appliance. They use the magnetic field generated by electricity to sense the amount of Current flowing through the cable.

Most will need to be installed by an electrician, since they will also need to be connected to the mains AC as well in most cases, in order to measure the Voltage as well - this allows them to get a more accurate picture of the power usage.

Some CT MEters have bi-directional current reading capabilities, this allows them to detect which way the current is flowing and allows them to differentiate between energy being USED and energy being GENERATED. This makes them perfect for monitoring of used electricity (imported), sold electricity (exported) or generated electricity (solar PV or wind).

CT Meters are pretty accurate, but they can struggle with lower levels of load - make sure to check the specifications to see if they will suit your requirements.

Pulse Counters

A pulse counter sensor connected to something that generates pulses and literally "counts" them. It's common for electricity, gas and water meters to have a pulse count output - a pulse is emitted for a certain measurement of electricity, gas or water that is used.

By counting the pulses the Pulse Counter Sensor can make a very accurate determination of the amount of energy that has been used during a set time period.

For example, if a water meter emits one PULSE per 100ml of water that flows through it and the Pulse Counter Sensor detects 10 pulses in a 1 hour period, then 1 litre of water has flow through the water meter in that hour.

Pulse Counter Sensors are incredibly accurate - they literally count every pulse that the utility meter outputs so they will match what the meter itself says is being used.

Directly Connected or Integrated

This type of sensor is physically built in to the utility meter (or sometimes into the Consumer Unit in the case of electricity) and offers either a direct output (for example via a Smart Home Protocol such as Z-Wave or Zigbee) or via a Cloud Server (for example provided by the utility company).

Again, these are also very accurate because there's no sensing or calculating required - the utility meter outputs exactly what is being used.

A Smart Home Protocol such as Z-Wave or Zigbee can sometimes be used to read the data, for example from a DIN mounted device within the electricity Consumer Unit. That said, it's more common for the data to be made available via the Cloud Services of the utility company. This could be by a web site or App on your phone or tablet.

As can be seen, there's pretty much a type of sensor to cover every energy monitoring scenario you can envisage!


4) What Parts Make Up A Smart Home System?

As mentioned previously, all Smart Home systems will use similar components (also called devices). These enable it to perform different actions, to sense environmental conditions and to react to motion, doors opening, windows closing and all manner of different events in your home.

Each device type has a specific purpose within the system, together they will give you the flexibility to control your home, and keep you informed about what's going on.

For your Smart Home Lighting project you'll be choosing "Actuators" as the OUTPUTS and "Sensors" / "Remote Controls & Wall Controllers" as the INPUTS to your Smart Home system.

The term "Actuators" sounds fancy, but really it just means something that the system can control! For Plug And Play Lighting this can be things like sockets, LED bulbs and LED strips and for Inline Lighting this can be Modules or full replacement Wall Switches & Dimmers.

Smart Home Actuators

Actuators are devices that physically make things happen by controlling lights, heating and appliances. There are various types of actuator suitable for Smart Home Lighting:

Socket Plugs

Sockets are one of the easiest to install "plug-and-play" devices available for your Smart Home. In most cases you literally just have to plug them in! And they can be used to control and monitor pretty much anything you can think of - lamps, appliances (such as dishwashers and washing machines), TVs and other AV equipment ... the list is endless. Combine them with other Smart Home devices like sensors and you can have full control of your home.

Manufacturers of Sockets typically produce them in two formats, those that simply plug in (as mentioned above these really are "plug-and-play") and those that need to be wired into an electrical circuit directly.

Within those formats broadly speaking there are then three types of device - On / Off Sockets, Dimmer Sockets and Range Extenders - all pretty self explanatory in terms of which device to choose for a particular task. Choosing the right Socket between manufacturers can be a little more difficult though as some will offer more advanced capabilities and others will offer simpler functionality, often at a cheaper price.

To help choose Smart Home Sockets be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Sockets guide.

LED Bulbs

Like Sockets, these are also one of the easiest to install devices and are a quick route to making your lighting Smart! In most cases it's just a case of changing out the existing light bulb and then pairing the new Smart version to your Smart Home Controller.

Manufacturers of Smart Bulbs typically produce them in one of three formats, those that are a single dimmable white colour, those that can have the temperature of the white colour changed between cool and warm (CT) and those that have full colour (RGB / RGBW). Sometimes a Smart Bulb even combines the CT and RGBW functionality into one device!

To help choose Smart Home LED Bulbs be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home LED Lighting guide.

LED Strips

These typically come in the same options as LED bulbs, allowing you to colour your world in all sorts of interesting ways! They're not quite as plug-and-play as LED Bulbs thought because they usually need some sort of installation, for example sticking or screwing underneath kitchen cupboard units or around the ceiling in your room.

While most are standalone devices (e.g. a power supply, controller box and LED Strip), some come in Module form, so you can install them at the light fitting to allow local control from a normal light switch.

To help choose Smart Home LED Strips be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home LED Lighting guide.

Modules

Modules can be fitted behind a light switch, in the ceiling space, or anywhere that you have access to the lighting circuit wiring. They are incredibly flexible, allowing you to control every aspect of your lighting. And, some Dimmer Modules work in a 2-wire system, making them ideal to fit behind an existing light switch.

Manufacturers of Modules have different types available designed to do specific roles, this gives you the best product for the job, but can make choosing the right Module a little more difficult. You also have the choice between manufacturers to contend with, where some will offer more advanced capabilities and others will offer simpler functionality, often at a cheaper price.

To help choose Smart Home Lighting Modules be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Lighting Modules guide.

Wall Switches & Dimmers

These aren't quite as flexible as Modules, but can make for a simpler installation as it's pretty much just replacing the existing light switch. They are usually available in one of three main types - Relays, Dimmers and those designed to control Blinds / Shutters (or other motorised appliances). This typically means that choice of device is simpler and you only have to choose between manufacturer.

To help choose Smart Home Lighting Wall Switches & Dimmers be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Lighting Wall Switches & Dimmers guide.

Smart Home Sensors

Sensors monitor your home and report if they detect motion or door opening, or specific values of environmental conditions such as light, temperature, humidity, etc.

By being the "eyes and ears" of your Smart Home they can be used to trigger all manner of things in your Smart Home Controller - from turning lights on, to sounding an alarm, to opening / closing blinds... the list is endless. Sensors enable things to happen automatically - which is one of the main goals of "automating" your home, turning it from dumb to Smart!

To help choose Smart Home Sensors be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Sensors guide.

Smart Home Remote Controls & Wall Controllers

Remote Controls & Wall Controllers give the convenience of controlling the system from a physical control unit as well as from your smartphone or tablet. They are usually battery powered which means that they can be installed anywhere you choose - on a wall in a convenient location, replacing an existing light switch (where you wish to keep the wiring permanently connected behind it) or just left lying arround as a "mobile" device.

To help choose Remote Controls & Wall Controllers be sure to check out our Choosing Smart Home Remote Controls & Wall Controllers guide.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats are typically used as a reference device to both monitor the room's ambient temperature and to allow manual entry of a setpoint temperature that the room should be kept at.

In a simple system you might only have a single Thermostat that directly manages a Heat Source Control, so that the heat source is turned on when the temperature reported by the Thermostat is lower than the setpoint input on the Thermostat.

In a more complex system there might be many Thermostats throughout the home, with each one reporting whether the room that it is located in requires heat or not. In this scenario the Smart Home Controller is typically used to arbitrate these heat demands, amalgamating them together to produce an overall heat demand for the home and then managing the Heat Source Control in response.

To help choose Smart Home Thermostats be sure to check out our Choosing Heating Controls guide.

Smart Thermostatic Radiator Valves (Smart TRVs)

In a water based heating system, Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) control when hot water is allowed to flow into a radiator based on the TRV's setpoint temperature. When the ambient temperature is lower then the setpoint, the smart radiator valve is "Open" and water flows through the radiator. When the setpoint is reached, the valve closes, stopping the water flow and allowing the radiator to cool.

Some Smart TRVs have complex algorithms that regulate how quickly the temperature changes, this reduces the chance of over-shooting the setpoint and wasting heat. Some TRVs also report the actual ambient temperature to the system, these can be used in place of a wall Thermostat, but the temperature readings may not be very accurate as they are positioned very close to the hot radiator!

To help choose Smart Home TRVs be sure to check out our Choosing Heating Controls guide.

Smart Heat Source Controls

Heat Source Controls typically replace your existing heating programmer / timer and allow your Smart Home system to control when the heat source (typically a boiler) is On or Off. Usually this is in response to a "Heat Demand", so for example if several rooms in your home require heat (the temperature is lower than the setpoint) then the Heat Source Control will turn On in order for those rooms to be heated. Or, if the hot water tank temperature is low the the Heat Source Control Control will turn On in order for the tank to be heated.

With electric based heating, your "heat source" isn't usually a central system like with water based heating, it's typically per room using a heat mat, hot air blower or an electic panel heater. In these cases the "Heat Source Control" can be as simple as a plug-in socket!

To help choose Smart Home Heat Source Controls be sure to check out our Choosing Heating Controls guide.

Getting Help and Advice

Hopefully this guide has helped prepare you with various areas that will allow you to narrow down your choices when it comes to using a Smart Home System to Save Energy. If you need any further help or advice, contact Vesternet and we will answer all your questions.