Green Homes Need to be Smart

solar panels under the sun
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The houses of the future are here. Smart and green homes are integrated with the latest technologies, all the while staying environmentally friendly. Upgrade your home to match the times and don’t get stuck in the past.

Integrated Access

The defining feature of every smart home is integrated access. Every switch, appliance, and device can be accessed remotely through a phone or tablet, giving its owner absolute control over the technological ecosystem of his home.

Through programmed protocols, homeowners can minimize their home’s energy use — lights only open at a given time, water is heated only when someone is close to home, the HVAC responds to the number of people in the room and adjusts accordingly. Of course, you’ll need the appropriate appliances and devices to make it work.

Most of your new purchases will be energy-efficient. Energy standards are continually going up, and newer models of existing appliances are always more efficient than the previous ones. Switching to energy-efficient appliances can cut your home’s energy consumption down by up to 30 percent, significantly reducing its carbon footprint.

Smart Windows

Any home with voice-activated lights can claim to be a smart home. However, homes with smart windows border the realms of science fiction. Although the technology is as real as it gets, having a window dim as you please still seems magical. Smart windows change their properties as electrical currents pass through them. They can become opaque or clear with a touch of a button, allowing you to control the amount of sunlight entering your home or get a bit of privacy when necessary.

Installing smart windows isn’t as difficult or as expensive as it was a few years ago. Today, smart window films are available. These films can modify any existing window, making them smart with just a few adjustments. Smart windows keep your house cool in the summer, reducing the need for air conditioning.

If you want to enjoy the sun through your large glass windows, you should also consider another layer of UV-filtering film. Clear UV film integrates well with smart film, and it blocks up to 80 percent of the sun’s heat and 99 percent of its UV radiation.

a brown house in autumn

Insulation

Heating and cooling will usually make up almost 80 percent of a home’s energy consumption. Uninsulated houses waste significant amounts of energy. Air leakage and heat flow through convection can reduce your home’s heating and cooling efficiency by up to 50 percent.

Proper insulation reduces heat transfer, whether coming in or going out. It keeps the temperature of your home stable — limiting temperature variations by 10 degrees during summer or winter months. Insulation reduces the stress on your air conditioners and heating systems, allowing them to run on lower settings. You’ll be using less electricity and your furnaces will be burning smaller amounts of fuel. The best way to insulate your house is by starting at the top. Heat transfer primarily occurs through the roof. Insulating your roof and ceiling significantly cuts down heat transfer, potentially reducing your power consumption by up to 30 percent.

Solar Power

A home can’t be truly green without solar power. Residential solar power systems might seem expensive, but advances in solar technology have cut their costs and made them more efficient. In sunny LA, a 12-kW system is more than enough to cover the energy needs of a 3-4 bedroom household during the day. Excess energy production is sent to the grid to cover nighttime use, making a home net-zero (or net-positive) in energy consumption.

Since the U.S. is mostly powered by fossil fuel (37 percent petroleum, 32 percent natural gas, and 12 percent coal), your home will also reduce its carbon footprint to zero or close to it. A 12-kW system can cost $12,000-$16,000, but federal incentives can cut 26 percent from the purchase price. With electricity costs in LA averaging at $100-$150 per household, the savings on your electricity bill should cover the premiums of a 10-year solar loan. Solar power systems can last up to 30-40 years and most American companies will guarantee the optimum efficiency for 25 years (80 percent or higher rating).

Smart and green homes are the future. Making your home smart and environmentally friendly bit by bit is a worthwhile and fulfilling venture. Of course, you can also just hire a licensed general contractor and get the job done in one go.

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