Advanced home control systems are used to control appliances, audio/video, HVAC, lighting, etc. to name only a few of the dozens of appliances that these systems work with. They are available under names like smart home, home automation, integrated home controls etc.
Control systems are also being increasingly used in homes to find out track and monitor energy consumption of different gadgets. These systems provide easy accessibility from remote locations by phone or computer. For example, these systems enable residents to switch on their water heaters remotely from places far removed from their house. Thus, one can switch on the water heater while driving home from work and have boiling water ready on arrival.
Though there has been much talk about energy home control systems and their energy saving potential it is still unclear exactly how many units consumers save by installing these systems. The systems are energy consumers initially; their energy saving potential needs to be carefully assessed if one does not want to end up paying more instead of saving on energy bills. For example, these systems can automatically turn on and turn off lights by sensing the occupancy in a room, but the lighting energy consumption is typically on a small portion of the residential energy use.
Heating and cooling of the living space accounts for the largest energy consumption in the typical home. The automation of these systems could provide the largest energy savings. Sophisticated HVAC systems have been developed that allow residents to schedule air temperatures changes within the home to suit their lifestyle. However, with temperature changes of less than four to five hours, little savings in energy can be realized. During this time, the thermal mass of the home stores energy, which has to be overcome when the air temperature changes back. It needs a sophisticated thermostat with a suitable programmable system to reduce system energy use while still allowing the residents to continue with their lifestyles.
The actual energy saving achieved using thermostat setbacks is influenced by the thermal efficiency of the house envelope and weather conditions. According to a thumb rule, 3% energy costs can be saved for every °F of setback. Based on this assumption, reducing the winter set point by 5°F would reduce heating energy consumption by 15%.