In most industries, information is king and, not surprisingly, energy efficiency is no exception. Almost all homeowners will be interested in household energy leakage data (such as the fact that the average home experiences an estimated 53%* of its heat loss through windows), and most will want to learn more by taking advantage of the up-to-the-minute usage information that intelligent and networked appliances have to offer.
The number of intelligent systems and appliances that can be interacted with has increased dramatically over the past decade and has now expanded into building materials themselves. Today the window you’re standing next to has become the source of radiant heat for an entire office. That’s because, like all modern consumer electronics and smart household appliances, building materials too are now being manufactured with intelligence that includes the ability to be controlled by iPhone, Android and tablets, architectural elements have become AppCessories – aligning them more closely with the sorts of electronics that we have all come to think of when we envision objects that comprise an interactive environment. Overall, the concept of an “Internet of Things” or “Internet of Everything” (common devices that are made smart and connected to other, larger networks) serves as an important first step towards the distribution of energy usage info by establishing a device-to-user communication framework. By empowering the user with access to this information, the system promotes optimal operation of hardware (usage within a “green zone” or nominal energy consumption rate such as collecting and analyzing data. based on information gathered at the mechanical-level of otherwise traditional machinery).
Utility companies are already honing in on exactly what this intelligent feedback looks like… on the back-end, they are incorporating robust, self-healing network technologies that rely on rapid, local-area information and sophisticated embedded software-driven hardware switches that can reroute power when distribution networks go down or power load shifts (often referred to as the “smart grid” which utilizes principles found in forward-thinking, data-handling “nodal networks”). On the consumer-end, it is energy control delivered via household hardware such as gas meters or data exchange frameworks for home appliance manufacturers that involve the user with energy usage monitoring applications for their smartphones or tablets. This well-structured, two-way, hardware-to-consumer and consumer-to-hardware information exchange represents a peek at the future of engagement protocols (such as the “MyData Initiatives“). While it might be ideal to create and deploy newer, more energy-efficient systems wherever possible, a significant overhaul of existing electronic products in order to automate operational efficiency is often too big of a step for most manufacturers to take; at least for now. In these cases, another course of action is to update existing hardware with technologies that will first connect with, and then inform consumers as to the product’s efficiency status, allowing them to make decisions that keep devices and intelligent appliances operating within this “green zone” of efficiency and comfort. With the potential for lowered bills, a more responsible posture in the community and perhaps LEED certification benefits all lined up as incentives for households and businesses alike, the cost of not going green may soon, if not already, outweigh the cost of designing structures and electronic products with consumer feedback systems like these in mind.
*ASHRAE 90.1 Standard for Envelope Energy Usage showing average heat loss sources (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers)