As a designer I’m seeing a wide range of so called “Smart” products and materials that are enhancing our lives and our homes, coming onto the market – some are with us now and some are emerging technologies. Not simply the never ending stream of connected consumer electronics and IT items but also others such as materials and products – offering “smart benefits” beyond their conventional counterparts.
I recently spoke about Smart Homes at the National Home Improvement Show as an emerging trend, so i thought id share a summary of some of the amazing products available to regenerate your home into a smarter and better place to live, including how to get more from every surface, every product and material in your home using ‘smart’ materials; finding out how smart technologies, materials and ways of designing will help you make your home more efficient, warmer, and cheaper to run; learning why a smart home is a better home and psychologically a better space to live in.
First up - Smart energy meters are set to create the next revolution in the way UK home owners perceive energy use. Using a hand held energy monitor they give consumers real time feedback on what gas and electricity they use and personalized billing, not estimates on your use. this means that you can compare the difference between the cost of taking a shower vs having a bath, or leaving your heating on over night or switching it off. Genius but so simple really!
The roll out of smart meters are part of the UK Governments program to upgrade all meters across the UK by 2020, but are already being released by energy providers such as British Gas who have installed over 400,00.
Remote control systems are also set to joining the energy revolutionaries, such as the ‘Hive’ by British Gas which will allow users to be in constant control of their heating via a smart phone app. This system will allow for flexibility in routine, avoiding extra heating bills and making life much more comfortable, cheaper and convenient. it could save you £150 a year in saved energy bills.
Ever since we first moved out of caves our roofs have provided shelter from wind and rain, but they could do so much more for us – they could be a power station for all our energy needs . Photovoltaic panels are becoming ever more popular because of rising energy costs and the feed in tariff incentives from the government.
So not only will you get paid to create energy, you can effectively use electricity in the daytime for free plus you get paid to send excess energy back into the grid. Currently the return on investment for panels still stands at around 12%. But if you can find a way to store that unused energy it could be doing all sorts of other things. I store mine in my Vauxhall Ampera electric car which has effectively given me thousand of miles of driving for free! Now that’s smart!
Floors are normally an overlooked power-source, but these new floor tiles aim to change that. Every time someone walks over a Pavegen tile, renewable energy is harvested from the footstep. The technology converts the kinetic energy to electricity which can be stored and used for a variety of applications.
The energy harvested by the Pavegen tile can immediately power off-grid applications such as pedestrian lighting, way-finding solutions and advertising signage or be stored in a battery. While they are currently better suited to commercial situations, and why shouldn’t this technology being introduced into domestic homes such as kinetic stairs in the not too distant future.
Ventilation within our homes can make a big difference to creating a healthy space to live in. It can help reduce damp in bathrooms, and allergies that can be agitated by stale air. The Ventive system has been designed to be retrofitted into the majority of the UK housing stock through the existing chimney.
The device allows hot stale air to rise through ducting installed inside the chimney cavity through a single hole installed above any disused fireplace.
This air passes through a heat exchanger and loses its heat to incoming fresh air which drops down through the heat exchanger
This enters the room pre-warmed through another grille.
On top of the heat exchanger is a specially designed roof cowl which serves to capture the wind to add to the driving force of the device.
Dupont Energain is a phase change material which regulates temperature variations in buildings.This is a new and easy way to improve the efficiency of old and new low thermal mass buildings (such as all glass or timber frame spaces). It contains a paraffin wax compound that changes from a liquid to a solid depending on temperature. It is also very thin so it can be easily added onto existing walls and insulation. Cleverly it:
- Absorbs heat and slows down temp increase by up to 7 degrees increasing comfort and reducing the need additional cooling
- At 22 degrees they absorb heat and the wax gel inside changes from a solid to a liquid
- At 18 degree it changes back (solidifies) and the walls release heat back into the room
Decorating your house using smart paints can be a brilliantly simple way of improving comfort and reducing your energy bills. Dulux Light and Space uses Lumitec which provides twice the reflectance of conventional paints, meaning that you wont need to turn on the light as much.
So consider this – the average house has 32 lights. If you can reduce the amount of time that they are on by 5 minutes a day – that amounts to a single light bulb being left on for 40 days!
NUTSHELL Nano Emulsion uses nano technology to keep rooms warm. Using billions of tiny glass spheres it has a thermal radiation reflectance, and insulative quality which helps its ability to resist heat transfer and keep rooms warm. This contributes to the protection of interior or exterior painted surfaces and the energy efficiency of buildings.
Lastly, even something as simple as the Philips Hue app controlled colour changing light bulbs can make a real difference to the mood and atmosphere of your home – making it a more comfortable and enjoyable space to live in. These smart Hue bulbs have some great benefits, such as:
- can be controlled by smart phones or tablets
- Dim and set moods or create an active energetic atmosphere
- Colour picker allows you to choose colours from photos or colour palette
- Security function allows you to turn on lights when you’re not at home
- 80% less energy use than a traditional bulb
- the timer setting can even wake you up with a gentle morning light
For many of us the home hasn’t evolved at the same pace as the technology encased in their phones.
But now we are seeing real increases in materials and products that enhance our homes, making them healthier, more efficient, easier to control, warmer and more comfortable.
If you’re improving your home, small additions can often amount to big savings, so take a closer look at how smart materials and products can make your home a better place to live.