Home automation – energy savings or too many smart gadgets?


There’s a lot of tech out there for smart home automation systems that run all your energy savings devices. Smart gadgets, solar power for homes, lights and air-conditioning, are all coming together. Having everything together will also help households save money in the long run.

Energy Matters has published a popular guide to smart home automation. It’s a basic overview to how new smart home solutions will play an increasing role in boosting energy savings and connected living.

So what are the latest gadgets? Wink is a leading smart home automation hub device for mainstream customers. The company is bringing Wink Hub 2, its latest version, to Australia soon. We also cast an eye over Belkin’s WeMO and Samsung’s SmartThings home hub systems.

But first we’ll look at Flex PowerPlay’s smart energy system that integrates with these new smart home hubs.

Flex PowerPlay’s smart energy system integrates with new smart home automation hubs.

Flex PowerPlay’s smart energy system integrates with new smart home hubs.

Flex PowerPlay – a smart solar suite

Flex has been innovating in the smart energy systems space field for many years. PowerPlay, a complete smart solar suite of products recently launched in Australia, not only shows you in real time exactly how much energy you’re generating, but allows you to automatically optimise your energy to reduce your usage.

The system thinks for itself. When the sun is shining and you’re generating more energy than you can use, it can automatically turn on or off appliances based on pre-configured rules. You can also control your connected applications anytime, anywhere, with a tap on your phone.

More integration and control packs will be coming soon. Flex PowerPlay’s hot water pack will allow you to divert excess energy from solar PV to your hot water at convenient times, so you don’t have to get it from the grid. The Flex PowerPlay pool pump control will allow your pool pump to be turned on automatically when a household is generating more energy than  it’s using.

Smart Home automation products are all the rage

In addition, there are smart sensors and many other accessories.  For example, Wink Hub 2 is a small box that connects a home faster, more securely and more reliably. Wink’s in-app robots enable you to customise the way products talk to each other. Wink’s popularity has grown rapidly and it is now one of the largest DIY smart home platforms.

In Australia, homes connected to Flex PowerPlay start out with a solar and battery system. Wink is already integrated to Flex PowerPlay in the US. So, when the Wink smart hub becomes available for distribution in Australia, it can be retrofitted to homes with existing solar panel and battery systems.

There are other gadgets, too. Belkin’s WeMo app has a wide range of smart plugs, light bulbs, motion sensors and cameras. There’s also the WeMo Maker, which lets you have control over almost any low voltage (24 volts at 1 amp or 24 watts max) DC electronic item via your home WiFi.

Use your smartphone to control the  Hisense 10,000 BTU Portable Air-Conditioner With Wi-Fi. However, at $369 it is pricier than most similarly powered non-connected portable air-conditioners.

The key is to connect all these devices. Samsung’s SmartThings connects all the wireless technologies in a household together. However, it’s not available in Australia yet. And don’t think of importing the UK or US devices, they’re illegal here!

Smart thermostats for ambient control

Smart thermostats can automatically detect ambient conditions in the environment. They adjust the temperature setting based on your actual usage patterns. They also learn from your past actions and usage patterns.

Base the temperature controls on your movements. For example, turning up the heat when you get out of bed, or switching on the AC when you’re driving home.

With a smart thermostat, you also can control your home’s temperature remotely via your smartphone. It lets you see your energy consumption in real-time, too. A smart thermostat can significantly reduce your energy consumption and save you 10-12 per cent on heating and 15 per cent on cooling. Flex PowerPlay can help control your common air-con split system.

Flex PowerPlay can help control your common air-con split system.

A smart thermostat can control your home’s temperature remotely.

Smart home automation boom coming to Australia

A new study from Juniper Research predicted 55 per cent of all American households, or more than 70 million homes, will use at least one smart speaker by 2022. This includes devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and the upcoming Apple HomePod.

This means that more than half of American households will use internet-connected smart speakers to do their tasks just five years from now.

The boom will see many more Australians adopt the technology. According to market research firm Telsyte, this will fuel a rise in smart home products from just $377 million in 2016 to $4.7 billion by 2021.

Too many gadgets?

There’s a bewildering array of gadgets on the market. The key is to integrate them and make them easy to use.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances and other items embedded with electronics and software. They can all exchange data. Market research firm Telsyte predicts Australia’s IoT industry go from strength to strength. Households will boast 311 million internet-connected devices, or more than 30 in every home.

But are Australians ready for a smart house that speaks to us? Interviewed on ABC News, start-up founder and investor Stuart Waite said:

“Once you get over the stigma that something’s always listening to you, for that keyword, then it becomes part of normal living.”