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Save Electricity with Breakthroughs in Home Appliance Technology

When we think about saving energy and lowering our electric bills, typically we’ll think about unplugging electronics and turning off lights when we’re not using them. But what about overhauling your home to be even more electrically-integrated than before? Breakthroughs in household electrical appliances are creating more integrated homes, enabling us to monitor usage, and changing the way we heat, cool, and allocate power throughout the house.

When we think about saving energy and lowering our electric bills, typically we’ll think about unplugging electronics and turning off lights when we’re not using them. But what about overhauling your home to be even more electrically-integrated than before? Breakthroughs in household electrical appliances are creating more integrated homes, enabling us to monitor usage, and changing the way we heat, cool, and allocate power throughout the house.

Let’s take a look at how new technologies are offering us novel methods of controlling where the power in our homes is going and when it’s used, and explore tech that takes a different scientific approach to electrically heating, lighting, and cooling homes.

Monitoring Appliance Energy Usage with Smart Homes

The Internet of Things (IoT) trend is still gaining momentum, whether it’s through voice-activated lighting or smart thermostats. A big benefit of smart homes with integrated electronics is the capacity to monitor our power usage more than ever before with dynamic energy use reports, but it doesn’t stop there.

One leading technology in the smart home craze is the smart thermostat. Research has demonstrated that smart thermostats can reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent. WiFi connectivity enables users to control their thermostats from anywhere, and advanced systems have algorithms that begin to predict your behaviors and needs over time to adjust themselves to the most energy-saving (and comfortable) configurations.

Even without a fully-integrated smart home, you can still take advantage of new technologies that help you monitor energy usage from the appliances throughout your home. Monitors can be plugged into your wall and connect to your personal WiFi network, and unlike your electric bill, can give you power usage reports about which appliances are using the most electricity, and how much you’re using at any point in the day.

Occupancy Sensing Lighting

Most environmentally-conscious homeowners do their best to remember to turn off the lights when they leave a room. Despite our best efforts, however, we can still leave lights on when we don’t intend to, leading to wasteful energy use and unnecessarily high electric bills. Occupancy-sensing lighting presents a solution to this problem, lighting rooms, hallways, closets, garages, and anywhere else only when someone is in them. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these types of lighting systems can reduce electricity usage by 30 percent versus traditional lighting systems.

Many security lighting systems are based on motion-sensing technology, which is not always the same as occupancy-sensing lighting. Depending on the system, motion-sensing can simply detect movement, while a correctly-placed occupancy sensor system usually relies on infrared or ultrasonic sensors to tell when someone enters, and when the very last person leaves a room.

Solar Power and Solar Panels

A major investment in a home is the installation of solar panels. This process can be involved and expensive, albeit cost-effective in the long run. But even if you don’t want to install solar panels on your rooftop, fortunately, there are lots of other ways to take advantage of solar power. Individual appliances or systems powered by solar power are a much smaller and more specific investment that can still lower your electric bill and save energy.

Outdoor solar lighting is a good example of an independent solar-powered system that doesn’t require the installation of solar panels. Naturally, those in climates with not a lot of sunlight or wintertime conditions may only yield 30 percent of the nighttime operation of lights exposed to a full day of bright sunlight.

Regulating Temperature with Heat Pumps

Most of us rely on traditional heaters and furnaces for the temperature control in our homes. New heat pump technology could stand to change that trend. Heat pumps simply move heat around using electricity. Your refrigerator typically works in the same manner, and heat pumps can be used to both heat and cool a home. Heat from the outside can me moved in during the winter, and vice-versa in the summer. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates heat pumps can use only 50 percent of the energy of a baseboard heater or furnace.

Heat pumps don’t just have the capacity to regulate the temperature of a home – they can also serve as a replacement for standard water heaters. Heat pump water heaters operate on the same basic principles as other heat pumps. While they are two to three times as efficient as standard water heaters, they only work best in certain climates (no cooler than 40° F, and no warmer than 90° F).

Smart Power Strips Allocate Power Intelligently

While there are plenty of “smart appliances” out there, one household addition can help regulate and manage the power going to multiple appliances: a smart power strip. Also known as Advanced Power Strips (APS), these power strips detect idling electronics and power them down for you. Idling electronic devices can cost hundreds of dollar a year in unnecessary electricity drain and a lot of wasted energy. An APS can prevent this kind of idle drain from devices and appliances left on, or even those powered down that are still leeching small amounts of electricity. This is especially useful at night or when you leave the house for the day, when idling electronics can rack up your electric bill (and pose a safety threat).

Even though these breakthrough technologies are exciting, many of these products are still prohibitively expensive for many, and will likely take a few years to become competitively-priced in the consumer market. Until then, we can still enjoy lower energy use from appliances and devices with the ENERGY STAR label, which have been rigorously screened for their energy-saving characteristics.


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