Green Home Living in the 21st Century – Smart Homes

If you are into eco-friendly living, clean energy, and innovative green technologies, then chances are you have come across the term “smart house”, which has been popping up all over environmental and green lifestyle blogs.

The concept of a smart house seems to not only be amazingly cool from the technological perspective, but it is also environmentally friendly and offers many unexpected benefits to homeowners in terms of comfort, health, and safety.

It is inspiring that these technologies are developing at such lightning speed, which means that the day average consumers across the globe will be able to actually live in a smart house may be approaching much sooner than many of us expect.

Features and components that make a house “smart”

What makes a smart house unique is the fact that it is built as a place where technology and design go hand in hand. These homes are digital by design with a complex relationship between architecture, hardware and software. In building and designing a smart home, environmental considerations come first, and all technologies and materials have the purpose of making the house as green and energy efficient as possible. For example, to save energy, smart homes are designed to regulate energy use by running the washing machine at off peak times and switching off unneeded appliances.

One of the most visible, user friendly, and coolest features of smart houses is a highly advanced, interconnected and automated network of systems that can be manipulated both from inside the home or remotely. Some of the most common systems are Interconnected Personal Computing (any devise with a chip is connected to your PC, the home’s “command center”); Personalized Home Automation (comfort features such as lighting and window shades that can be adopted based on your and guests’ preferences), Security System and a Climate Control System. Keep in mind, that the architectural design of such a home also has to be smart, to be able to support all of the above mentioned systems and other green features.

Benefits of living in a smart home

While it may seem like these houses may be too techie and lab-like for the kind of cozy, comfortable living most people are used to, the opposite is actually true. The innovative high tech features add an unparalleled level of convenience, comfort and safety. While smart homes are designed to benefit people of all ages, older people or people with disabilities may be the biggest beneficiaries of the house’s high tech automated systems and features. The reality that we as a society need to be prepare for is that by 2050 the largest age group among women will be 80 plus. With the aging population on the rise in most Western countries including the US, smart houses may provide a revolutionary solution to the kind of in-home care most elderly and sick people with cognitive or physical limitations need, but currently do not have access to.

Dr. Diane Cook, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Washington State University, has been conducting research and testing various types of technology in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, which assists them with getting up, preparing food, making hands-free phone calls and remembering to take their medication. One of the biggest breakthroughs of smart home’s technologies is protection against safety hazards. This is a common affliction in people with disabilities, such as dementia, who cook and then forget to turn their stove off, causing a fire. In a smart home, sensors will turn the stove off automatically, when it is no longer in use. These types of features are also highly desirable for families with small children, offering an extra level of safety and protection within the home.

A smart home is a paradigm shift from what we typically understand a home’s function to be. An ideal smart home will as a whole think about your needs and will use its components, to meet them quickly and efficiently. Thanks to major advances in robotics, sensors and intelligent systems much of this technology is expected to be widely available within the next 10 years. We are living in exciting times when a smart home is quickly shifting from being a sci-fi fantasy into becoming a tangible reality that people can use and benefit from.

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