Energy-efficient homes

Energy-efficient homes

Long power cuts have turned our daily lives upside down. All the newfangled gadgets we own cease to work during a power cut. We have burgeoning populations doubling faster than anticipated, and limited resources in terms of energy supply.

It is heartening to note that ‘smart’ is an all important buzzword which homes, cars and home appliances are turning into, to combat this energy crisis. After all if we don’t help ourselves, we are doomed to suffering longer hours of load shedding.

Alfred Ahenkorah, the Deputy Chair of REEP, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency arm of the UNU (United Nations University) explains how by changing incandescent light bulbs of an entire village in Ghana to CFL bulbs, there was a peak load reduction of 14 MW which worked out to 496,000 kWh per day. Not only was there a huge saving of energy which could be used for other purposes, but it helped by cutting back 1.2 million tons of CO2 per annum.

If we were to make a conscious decision to go smart and change all the light bulbs in Bangalore, there would be an enormous energy-saving end result, a positive step for citizens to take.

For years, we have watched the Hollywood series called the Jetsons with their fancy futuristic homes, and intelligent appliances that could even tell them they were out of milk!

Today’s smart appliances go beyond that. By investing in them, we invest in energy efficient devices that not only cut back on energy consumption, but also help cut back on our electricity bills at the end of the month.

In the peak of summer, having a smart air-conditioner that can be programmed to switch on only towards late evening, cooling down the house by the time you return from work, rather than leaving it on the entire day, would be a super energy saver. Another energy saver could be a solar panel rather than an electric geyser.

Smart appliances

In the West, smart appliances are connected with smart meters which delay a defrost or a particular wash cycle avoiding peak hour electricity consumption.

Cooking ranges, microwaves, refrigerators and washing machines are assembled with meters that connect with the local smart grid when electric consumption costs less.
On a trip to Germany, I noticed that elevators in airports and shopping malls, metros and department stores did not run continuously.

Instead they had an inbuilt smart mechanism which ‘sensed’ human approach and only then, the machine came to life. When not in use, it just smartly switched itself off, saving crucial energy.

If the 21st century is going to be hotter with the impact of climate change, smart homes too are the need of the hour.

Alternate energy

Houses which are wireless rather than with cluttered electrical paraphernalia should be built.

The house should draw its energy needs from geothermal, wind or solar energy. The buildings should make use of as much natural light as possible with roofs that let light flood in. The building should also have its own waste recycling and compost pits to take care of kitchen waste rather than accelerate landfill pressures. Rainwater harvesting mechanisms can help harvest precious rain, which can be used to water the garden and for cleaning purposes, instead of wasting drinking water.

Smart cards

Smart homes also have installations which can sense the presence of a person in the room and adjust the lighting, temperature and music, or switch energy saving mode when the house is unoccupied.

Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning (HVAC) solutions also help to control the air-conditioning and heating systems when the owners are out. Simple items like a coffee pot, garage doors, pet feeding, plant watering, and pumps and sumps can all be monitored and controlled remotely, thereby saving on electricity.

My personal favourite is the smart card to enter or depart a hotel room. It serves as the perfect energy saver, for if the card is not inserted in the slot provided, you cannot activate anything electrical in the room. An excellent energy saving practice which is forced on the consumer, rather than left to personal choice.   

  To avoid dangerous climate change, there has to be a fundamental shift in our attitude towards conservation of energy. As Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist from the Podstam Institute for Climate Impact Research said, even if we go completely carbon neutral tomorrow, we could never bring the world back to where it originally was.

However there is hope for future generations if we take climate change seriously and view smart homes, cars and appliances favourably.

Go the smart way, it’s not only a smarter option, but it can save you money on energy bills which could all add up to that dream, energy saving, compact car that you always wanted to buy.         

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