Do You Need Smartphone Apps to Control Your Home’s Energy Consumption?
There are many news stories out there lately about smartphone-controlled home appliances and conveniences. First, there’s the reported Wi-Fi network connected LED lights. Then, there’s the Japanese device that can grant you smartphone control of all of your home devices and appliances. There is even recent news of new microwave ovens that are specifically designed to be controlled by a smartphone app.
The trend of these developments seems to follow the theme of variable controllability, in which appliances can be monitored, set with timed instructions and can be turned off all using your smartphone’s special app interface. Generally the remote system has been claimed to be able to improve the energy efficiency of your homes in a way.
Practically, however, do we really need smartphone apps to control our home’s energy consumption? Just how are inferior standard “raw” methods of saving energy compared to these high-tech methods?
Let’s first round up and enumerate some of the perceived advantages of smartphone-controlled appliances that I’ve mentioned earlier:
- Depending on the system used, energy consumption can be actively monitored remotely, by the watt-hour, as it continues to operate.
- You can set sleep timers so that appliances could automatically turn off after operating for a period of time.
- Remote appliance control can help you determine which appliances are still operational, turning them off if necessary even if you forgot to do so earlier during the day.
Having exact precision over the energy draw of home appliances does have direct effects on efficiency, since the rate of wasteful usage goes down considerably. However, I’d like to point out that there are more causes of wasted energy than just the inefficient use of appliances, the better known ones being:
Poor unit choice – many people are not so educated about energy efficiencies. While we have a general idea just how inefficient an appliance can be, we cannot actually foresee just how much money it could waste when used for a long period of time. We often neglect raw calculations in our electronics considerations.
Energy consumption negligence – there are also some people who just don’t really care how much energy they spend in one month. Of course, there’s nothing wrong if you have the money to pay for it, it’s just that some of us have never imagined how much money we could actually save if we start being energy thrifts (or for environmentalists, how much kilograms of coal are we going to keep unused).
So, saving energy at home isn’t just all about being able to precisely control devices and appliances, it’s also about the entirety of using and choosing these conveniences, something that is no longer completely under the control of a regular smartphone remote system.
Most smartphone-based remote monitoring and control systems for home appliances are often just within the same level as a regular renewable energy system. It is simply another form of green investment, where the amount that you save using the system can be used to shave off a portion of its capital. And just how much do these systems usually cost? The Wi-Fi LED system mentioned earlier for example, has a total minimum cost of around $1,580 ($780 for the control box/router, $260 for one Wi-Fi tube and $540 for three NetLED lights). Even with the supposed 50% power cost reduction when it is used on a large scale (for an entire company building for example), it would still take many years before the system completely pays back the capital. At least renewable energy systems can be decent investments, since there could be an actual need for you to change the source of energy of your home.
That is why combined manual methods of saving energy would still seem to be the more efficient solution. True, you might not be able to turn off an appliance that was kept on accidently, but why worry about that if you have your own method of making sure that you don’t forget in the first place? How about watt-hour monitoring and calculations? A simple Kill-a-watt can do most of that. All you have to do is to conduct various power tests of all the appliances at home, list the wattages down and remember how many cents each appliance or device uses up in an hour. Why spend over $100 or even $1,000 on such systems when you yourself can be the home’s monitoring system?
Take note that I never meant that these remote systems are totally useless, it’s just that most of the large scale ones are yet to be practical enough for home use. Maybe when the costs get really low in the future, then we could combine our energy thrift values and these remote energy saving systems.
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