The smart home: a homeowner’s guide to eco technology and renewable energy
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We’re all trying to do our bit for the environment. And with the effects of global warming being felt all over the world, the time to shift our habits and energy consumption is now. Sustainability in the home is becoming increasingly important for us to reduce our carbon footprints and impact on the environment.
Thanks to smart home technology and renewable energy options, there are more opportunities than ever to make your home more eco-friendly. Technology also allows you to track these efficiencies and potential cost savings too – something that’s particularly encouraging when trying to embrace a greener lifestyle.
In this guide, we’ll look at what technologies and energy sources are available, affordable and accessible to UK households.
An introduction to sustainability in the home
Sustainability is a priority for us all nowadays, but in the home specifically, it can take many different forms. Let’s look at it in a little more detail.
What is sustainability?
Sustainability refers to a method of consumption whereby we generate and use energy without depleting the Earth’s natural resources. It means living in a way that fulfills our needs and allows us to live our lives, without further damaging the environment with CO2 emissions and the creation of greenhouse gases.
What can homeowners do?
Sustainability takes many forms, from smaller, everyday actions to large decisions about your home. The smaller acts can include things like reducing waste, turning off lights and opting for eco-friendly products. And then on a larger scale, homeowners can look at switching to renewable energy sources and investing in eco technologies.
You can even look out for the planet before you buy a property. Green mortgages are offered to buyers if you can show that the home you’re borrowing for meets certain environmental standards. Perhaps you’re buying a new-build which has been created with sustainability in mind, or you’re able to prove you’ll take measures to improve the sustainability of an older home – for example, installing solar panels.
Lenders may have different criteria for getting a green mortgage, such as:
- A minimum energy efficiency rating
- An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) at bands A or B
- Sustainable building practices
They may offer you a lower interest rate, or increase the loan amount you’re eligible for. This is because you’ll be seen as lower risk. Less energy use means lower utility bills, which means you’re more likely to be able to afford to pay your mortgage each month. Sustainable buildings are also more likely to hold their value.
Eco technologies and renewable energy are often labelled as expensive options, but making eco-friendly choices in your home is easier on your wallet than you think.
Sustainability isn’t just a priority for homeowners, but the government too. They’ve planned to cut emissions by 78% by 2035, as part of their plan to reach net zero by 2050. And they offer financial aid to homeowners wanting to make renewable changes in their homes. Let’s look at some of them.
The Green Deal loan
The Green Deal was designed to support those wanting to make eco-conscious improvements to their homes in the form of a loan. You can apply for a loan through the Green Deal for a range of home improvements, including:
- Double glazing
- Renewable energy installations such as solar panels
Source: GOV UK
The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
This incentive promotes the use of renewable heat in the home, which you can do by switching to renewable heat sources. You receive quarterly payments for seven years, with the actual amount depending on how much renewable heat it’s estimated your system produces.
Smart home technology refers to software that can be built into household appliances to enable automation or remote control features. We most often see this with things like smart heating, where fitting smart thermostats and valves onto your heating system allows you to not just control your home’s temperature from your phone or tablet, but also gain insights into your usage and heating costs too. This information can help you to better manage your energy consumption and ultimately lower it (and your bills).
A brief history of smart home technology
The first home appliances were introduced in 1901, with the first smart automation system following earlier than you might expect, in 1966. Users could make shopping lists, control the temperature of their home, and turn their devices on and off.
However, this kind of technology didn’t become more affordable until later. The cost of appliances dropped in the 1970s, while smart technology began to become less pricey in the early 2000s. This combination opened the door for the smart technology we know today, aided by the rise of the home broadband, WiFi, and smartphones.
Using smart technology
When it comes to using smart technology to save energy (and money) in your home, there are many options available to you, depending on what you’re looking for and your budget.
Smart heating uses smart thermostats and valves on your heating system to allow you to remotely control your home’s heating and cooling, as well as set automated programs that work around your routine. Aside from having complete control over your heating, you can also gain insights into your usage and costs.
Check a Trade estimates that a smart thermostat costs between £120 and £220 to buy, plus £30-£80 for installation by an electrician.
Smart plugs work on timers to prevent energy wastage, and let you monitor what power you use and where in your home. You simply plug it into an outlet, plug in an appliance, then connect the plug to the smart plug app or a home assistant. You can then control the appliance’s energy use from your phone or tablet.
Smart plugs can cost anywhere from £9.99 to £40, depending on the make.
This piece of smart home technology lets you have an overview of two of the main elements of your household energy consumption: gas and electricity. You can also see how much you are spending on these household utilities to manage your energy usage and, therefore, the emissions your home produces.
The government has been rolling out smart meters for free across the country in the hopes of making our energy system cheaper and cleaner, with the most recent figures showing that 24.2 million smart meters are now in use in homes and businesses across the country.
Smart lighting works similarly to heating and power technologies – you can control the lights in your house from your phone or tablet. Individual bulbs can cost anything from £25 to £50 and normally require some kind of control, like a hub or remote.