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“Please advise on our high electricity bill…”

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One of our new clients had a monthly bill in excess of R25k! We brought his energy consumption down by 40%, and here’s how we did it…

When our client approached us to investigate his high electricity bills, we were astonished to discover that he had an existing home automation system installed. Why? Because since a home automation system controls most of your loads, why shouldn’t it also be employed as a really sophisticated energy management system?

After our initial analysis, it was a simple 3-step process to bring his bills down drastically (and we didn’t even change a bulb!)

Step 1 – Integrate HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Cooling) into the Home Auto system
A recent survey shows that HVAC is responsible for up to 60% of your electricity bill. Dumb thermostats just don’t cut it anymore. By replacing their thermostats with a centrally controlled hub, we could switch off different zones or rooms in the house by simply checking their occupancy status. Surprisingly, many rooms were sometimes empty for weeks – guest loos, spare rooms, the drawing room, etc.
The heating and cooling came from a single source, a VRV system heat pump. By integrating the heat pump controller into the home auto system, we could intelligently schedule when it should heat and cool. For instance, in summer we allowed it to work harder just before sunrise when the outside air is at its coolest. This also allowed the client to switch modes (heating/cooling or ON/OFF) remotely from his phone.
We even had the system check the weather forecast. If a cold front was on its way, we had the system work hard the day before to store some of the energy beforehand while ambient the temperature was still warm.

Step 2 – Schedule EVERYTHING
This step was easy and literally took our technicians a single day to institute: lights were scheduled to only work when it was dark; heating & cooling were set automatically to work only when needed; heated towel rails were scheduled for morning and evening hours; arming the alarm switched off all lights (apart from a few exterior lights).
The correct use of scheduling can significantly reduce your electricity bill and avoid waste.

Step 3 – Educate the Client
This is an oft-forgotten skill of any systems integrator. An informed client that understands his/her system will use it more efficiently. We’re not talking about getting the client to programming level, but he has to understand the value and power of the system. Also, understanding how his utility charges him for electricity can influence his usage and habits. And the added benefit is that the client actually enjoys his system so much more.

Home automation is not just about convenience. A good integrator will employ a variety of energy-saving strategies when offering their services. There’s no reason that a home auto system should manage the electricity usage, and save the client a ton of cash.

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