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.
In this article we're going to look at using home automation to monitor and control your home's energy use and see whether it can actually make a difference - helping you to save money.
Some Facts About Energy Consumption
Why save energy?
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.
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 you can 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, 365 days a year!
Saving energy is quite straightforward and even simple changes can save you a lot of money.
Standby - Turn devices Off, don't leave them in standby - this can save around £76 off your annual bill.
Economy Tariffs - By setting your appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, etc.) to use economy or night-time electricity can save you 5% per appliance.
Lighting - Dimming lights when they're On will save you money. Dimming them by 50% can save you 10% (that's a bit extreme but you get the idea). More information is available in our Smart Home Lighting guide.
Blinds - Closing blinds at sunset during the winter and sunrise during the summer can save up to 8% of the room's energy usage - great for conservatories.
Heating - This is an entire subject in its own right - take a look at our Smart Home Heating guide.
Using Home Automation to Save Energy
So saving energy is straightforward - but doing it is never that simple. We forget to do things, we leave things on standby and we carry on wasting money.
Home automation (by definition) can automate these things for you. It can 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.
The two most common home automation technologies that are perfect for energy management are LightwaveRF and Z-Wave. Both offer affordable and easy to install systems to control your power use, they can even connect to the Internet to send you alerts or allow you remote access to the system.
Before we continue, it's worth taking a quick look at the main differences between LightwaveRF and Z-Wave.
The leading technology offering advanced capabilities that make it the most flexible solution for all home automation systems:
- Two-way communication - all messages acknowledged and don't get lost
- Mesh networking - automatically covers dead-spots, great for large houses or old houses that have very thick walls
- Easy connection to the Internet - sends texts/emails and enables you to access the network from anywhere
- Huge range of products
Take a look at the full Z-Wave Range.
Offers a reasonable performance for most home automation applications at a very low cost.
- Simple wireless technology - does not include two-way communication or mesh networking
- Smaller number of products - only offered by one vendor and limited to UK style plugs
- Can be connected to the Internet to send texts/emails and remote access
- Great range of stylish, low cost products for control of appliances, lighting and power measurement
Take a look at the full LightwaveRF Range.
Choosing your Components
We've compiled a list of products that we feel represent good value for money and provide the features you need to start your home automation energy management system. You don’t need to buy the whole system at once, you can buy what you need and then expand it. We also have a very useful Getting Started guide.
Socket adapters plug into outlet sockets and enable the system to control appliances (On/Off) based on set times or by other network sensors such as motion detectors. For example a sensor can automatically switch a light On when you walk into a room and then turn it Off when there is no activity. Some sockets can also track energy consumption of the connected appliances.
Combines On/Off control of the lamp as well as measuring its power consumption. Loads up to 2,400W.
TKB Switch/Meter Wall Plug
Combines On/Off control of the lamp as well as measuring its power consumption.
Aeotec Smart Switch 6
Stylish small plus that controls the lamp as well as measuring its power consumption.
Fibaro wall Plug Gen5
Gives you On/Off control of the lamp and measures the power consumption. It also includes an LED bezel that changes colour based on how much power it's using - perfect for a quick check.
Sockets - LightwaveRF
Range of stylish sockets that directly replace existing 1- and 2-gang 13amp sockets, enabling them to be controlled via the LightwaveRF network. There are also matching light switches available.
These devices allow you to measure the power consumption of your entire home, giving you the information you need to spot issues and reduce your power usage.
Aeotec Clamp Power Meter - Z-Wave
Easily installed by clamping around your AC Mains supply, and paired to your Z-wave controller for accurate energy monitoring & saving. Reports actual consumption (W) and accumulated power used (kWh).
Energy Monitor - LightwaveRF
Provides a real-time indication of your current energy consumption, cost per minute and accumulated power used. Easy to install as the device simply clips onto your mains power supply cable..
The controller is the heart of your home automation system, allowing you to configure and control the whole network. By adding a Gateway Controller, you can also access the network from anywhere in the world using your Smartphone or PC. Choosing the right controller for your needs is a key factor so it's worth to do some research, so take a look at our detailed Controller Guide before committing.
Fibaro Home Center 2 (HC2)
Flexible Z-Wave controller with an intuitive User Interface (UI), dedicated panels for heating, alarms etc and advanced LUA programming capabilities.
Fibaro Home Center Lite (HCL)
Based on the same UI as the Home Center 2, but has a restricted feature set to offer a lower cost entry-level controller (see feature table for more details).
Athom Homey Smart Hub
Homey is a versatile controller with a really easy-to-use interface (UI). It features 7 other wireless technologies (like Zigbee and LightwaveRF) next to Z-Wave, and has an open platform for extended capabilities.
Cloud-based controller featuring an intuitive user interface and 'rule-creator' scene builder and unique range of expansion modules.
Indigo is the advanced smart home Software for Mac OS X, compatible with hundreds of Z-Wave, INSTEON, LightwaveRF and other smart devices. Over 100 plugins to other devices make it the most powerful software solution available for Mac.
The LightwaveRF Link allows you to use a PC or Smartphone to remotely control any of your LightwaveRF devices (note it only works with LightwaveRF devices).
With some careful thought and using the information provided by the home automation devices, you'll be able to measure your energy and make decisions that put you in control of how much (or how little) energy you use.
Using the components we've shown, you can create a system that immediately starts paying for itself by saving you money as well as giving you the convenience of home automation:
- Convenience - control all your appliances wirelessly and automatically
- Easy to install - control existing switches by using socket adapters or insert modules
- Track power consumption - for your entire home or by individual appliance
- Expandable - Z-Wave and LightwaveRF can expand to cover all your home automation needs