Solar Colwood and Horizon Technologies recently showcased their pilot Smart Home For Us system at the residence of long-time Colwood resident and Captain in the Colwood Fire Department, Frank Gale, and the Gazette was on hand to see what all the fuss was about.
“This system makes me more aware of exactly how much energy I’m using and where I can save money, and I think, overall, for the average person, that’s what they want to do – save money,” said Gale. “Since I’ve started with Solar Colwood, and done the hot water, the ductless heat pump, and now the smart home, I’ve saved lots of money. Plus, I’m helping the environment, too.”
Ludo Bertsch, president of Horizon Technologies – who developed the Smart Home system Solar Colwood is touting – walked us through how it works and why it’s being developed.
“A key part of it is getting information to the consumer so they can see how much energy they’re using,” Bertsch said, waving a seven-inch tablet around at Gale’s kitchen table. “If you look at a typical homeowner, they’ll get a bill in the mail maybe one or two months after they’ve used that energy, and by then, they’ll have forgotten how they used that energy.”
This new technology, according to Bertsch, allows the consumer to see, in real time, so they can adjust habits and make decisions before they use that energy – or at least while they are using it so they can see where it’s being used.
“A lot of this (power-use information), you really don’t know unless you have a display like this in your home,” Bertsch said. He used the example of going into one customer’s house, hooking things up to the smart system, and demonstrating it, to their astonishment.
“The lady of the house was sitting in the living room, and she had the music on. We hooked up the system, and we saw the amount of energy being used. We turned off the music system and found out that it was just using a little bit of power,” Bertsch said. “Meanwhile she had a reading light on in the corner, (and we turned it off) and boom. The energy went way down. Its the kind of thing you really don’t realize until you have a good way of measuring it.”
Because there can be a many devices on the system, Bertsch said, when people think about making their home “smart,” there’s a misconception that they will need a “huge, massive system to control it all,” Bertsch said, which isn’t the case.
“It’s very modular, Bertsch said. “You can start with a very small, right out of the box system that’s just ‘open it up, and there you go.'”
The “hub” of the system controls and monitors the energy use of anything connected to the system. It also allows the user to be able to turn things on and off that are connected to the system. The user reads and controls the system from a tablet, computer, or their smartphone – in real time.
Bertsch demonstrated this real-time connection by having the tablet in front of him monitoring the power use of the two lamps in front of him on the table. One of the lamps uses a halogen bulb, and one uses an LED. When he turned off the halogen-lit lamp – using the tablet in his hand – the total power use went from 68 watts down to four.
You can also set timers using the system. For example, you could set your heat to only come on in the morning, go off while you’re at work, and then come back on shortly before you get home. You can also change that timing remotely, so if you remember to set something, but only after you’ve left the house, you can still take care of it.
“When Ludo first came in and set me up with the smart system,” Gale said, “my home office had eight halogen lights in light bars, and just from seeing the graph, I found out I was buying 300-plus watts, and so I went out and replaced them all with LEDs, and that immediately went down to 30 watts, and that was just in one room.”