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[ Technology: Smart homes ]


– either to enhance the homeowner’s lifestyle or to maximise the home’s energy efficiency. There is, however, the opportunity to mix the two together – and one thing that they both have in common is the integration of a structured wiring network that allows for aspects of the home environment, such as heat, light and sound, to be controlled centrally. Once this is enabled, it allows the homeowner to adapt these elements to their particular requirements.


Lifestyle choice A lifestyle smart home is based on convenience, comfort and entertainment. For most homeowners, the plethora of household gadgets that are available and, just as importantly, affordable, has helped develop the general interest in smart homes. Home entertainment ranks highly on most homeowners’ lists of ‘must-have’ items, and with smart technology just about anything is possible. Audio and video can be streamed to any room in the house and controlled with one remote control. With larger, high- definition TVs and sound systems, the ability to create a home cinema is easily achieved. This technology can include pretty much anything from


media servers and multi-room audio and video systems, to home networks that intelligently control all aspects of the home, including heating, lighting, blinds and security. For those who want them, integrated garden watering,


lighting and audio systems, swimming pool covers, letterbox delivery systems, fish-feeders, moving floors, walls and bookcases, are all possible.


A green smart home enables homeowners to reduce their impact on the environment by providing energy usage information, control strategies and automated operation of products


Green homes A green smart home enables homeowners to reduce their impact on the environment by providing energy usage information, control strategies and automated operation of products. With higher energy bills, homeowners don’t just want


to use less energy but also want to use it wisely. Central heating systems are now available that, rather than heating an entire home, can be split into different zones so that they warm specific areas as and when required. There are also lighting systems on the market that can be automated to deliver light at the right level when and where it’s needed, while also switching off lights in rooms and areas that are unoccupied. A further incentive for adopting smart energy generation


was introduced last April, when feed-in tariffs were established. Those who generate their own electricity – from waste, from solar panels, from wind power or other renewable sources – are now rewarded through incentive payments, based on the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity generated. These payments range up to 41 pence per kWh – around five times more than electricity typically costs to buy, and therefore a valuable incentive to investigate microgeneration schemes. Smart metering is also seeing growth. It is estimated


that the average household spends more than £300 per year on energy that it doesn’t actually need – and in these tough economic times this money could be used in more beneficial ways. It is hoped that smart meters will be installed in every home by 2020.


Look before you leap


If you are thinking of developing a smart home offering, consider the following points: n Take some training. While most electrical contractors will have no problem dealing with the technical angle, knowing about standards, protocols and how these impact on smart home deployment will be invaluable;


n Understand what’s possible. Contractors need to look at all the technology that can be included in a smart home. The ECA can help with this and there is a range of information at www.eca.co.uk;


n Talk to the customer. Don’t just assume that all customers will want the same thing. Talk to them and make sure that you fully understand their needs;


n Don’t over specify. No one will want something that they won’t use. Again, work closely with the customer but always feel free to make suggestions;


n Select the most suitable carrier. Power cable, data/network cable and wireless can all be used to create a smart home network;


n Plan ahead and carry out research. Take the time to make sure that an agreed strategy is in place before work commences;


n Choose wisely. The communication between different technologies is key to developing a successful smart home, so make sure the products you are looking to install can do this;


n Explain the technology. Take the time to tell your customers what the products can do and how to use them;


n Go green. There’s a growing link between microgeneration and smart homes. With grants and funding being offered to homeowners who use renewable energy sources, this offers a major opportunity for electrical contractors; and


n Keep in touch. This is a fast-moving market and new products and systems are being introduced all the time. Keep up to date with the latest developments via websites and magazines such as ECA Today.


Autumn 2010 ECA Today 49


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