Digital and the modern smart home

If we follow Gartner’s adoption curve, technology has moved from being hype to being low in reality, and now we’re on an adoption curve. The point at which smart home technology becomes the standard in new buildings and retrofits.

What actually is a smart home?

Let’s try to break down a smart home into its component parts and understand the role of the technology and services it can deliver. It evolved from analog home automation, in which labor-saving machines and building services, such as heating and washing, could be included in the planning. Today computers and digitization are part of our household appliances; It was inevitable that they would integrate and connect through communication protocols and fundamentally change the way we manage our homes.

The word “smart” in “Smart Home” refers to the fact that the system knows the state of its devices, which is done via the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) protocol and the Internet of Things (IoT) of every electrical device found in the device home can now be managed autonomously or remotely, and devices can be integrated to provide systems. As we combat climate change by significantly reducing the energy consumption of our buildings, more and more technology is needed to manage these systems.

The modern home is full of these devices that can be configured for an endless number of services – from security to in-house entertainment. So how does intelligent digital technology work with climate protection?

The energy efficiency class of the house

Greenhouse gas emissions for households are mainly caused by burning fossil fuels for heating, followed by electricity for running appliances. The energy efficiency of a building with energy efficiency class A must have an energy balance of less than 32 KWH / m2 / year (kilowatt hours of energy per square meter over a year). Unfortunately the majority of existing UK homes have a rating of D 101-135 KWH / m2 / year.

Improving the energy efficiency class of British houses

In the future, new houses will have to be significantly more energy efficient and existing buildings will have to be retrofitted (including taking into account the carbon stored in the materials used). A super-energy-efficient house creates its own challenges that can only be solved through the use of intelligent building technology. All houses have to breathe, which is no problem for my single-glazed Victorian terrace.

After all drafts and thermal bridges are removed, different approaches to controlling ventilation are required. Obviously, opening a window results in heat loss, so the inclusion of a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system controls the airflow while minimizing heat loss. The ventilation is efficiently controlled by integrating sensors into the smart house.

An energy-efficient house is designed to optimize the solar gain (using the sun as a heat source). In summer, when the sun is strongest, there is a risk of overheating. By integrating an intelligent shading system that can be programmed to reduce exposure to the sun within user-defined tolerances, an ideal building ambience can be maintained. In the colder months, when solar yields are lowest, all but the most energy efficient homes need additional heat sources.

At this point, the most popular choice that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons is a ground or air heat pump that works like an inverted refrigerator. The caveat is that they would struggle to provide enough heat to heat a home that hasn’t seen energy efficiency improvements. In the future, we could have gas boilers that run on carbon-free hydrogen, which could provide the energy needed to heat some of our old building stock.

Make a difference with solar collectors and photovoltaics

In the smart cities of the future, buildings will be equipped with solar panels and photovoltaics (PV) to reduce the KWH / m2 / year of the building. A normal domestic PV system should deliver around 3.5 KWh of electricity over the year, which corresponds to around 50% of the average energy consumption of a household.

Provided your home is energy efficient, PV can generate more than enough electricity to provide the energy it needs. The obvious caveat is that energy consumption is higher in winter when the PV is the least efficient. Additional battery storage can compensate for the consumption behavior, but it is very likely that energy will be fed into the grid over the summer and any deficiency will have to be covered by additional feed-in.

So far I’ve mainly talked about what we can do today. Now let’s try to look into our crystal ball to understand what we may be able to do soon, based on the technologies available to us and some of the research projects that are currently producing results.

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