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Buildings Going Green: How IoT Enables Better Energy Use & Management

Buildings Going Green: How IoT Enables Better Energy Use & Management

The consumer-led push to create “smart home” systems, which prioritize energy efficiency and savings alongside increased convenience for home or building owners, is opening up new possibilities in energy management. As technology developers build home and office solutions for energy-savvy consumers, they continue to create better models for reducing the energy that our buildings consume. Both consumers and the environment benefit.

But how exactly do smart building systems enable better energy management? After all, dozens of interconnected devices (all requiring power) sound like they would need more energy, not less. Let’s take a look at how new technologies are working to make our homes and offices smarter, more efficient, and more convenient.

It Starts with the Grid

While some solar consumers are able to completely remove themselves from the grid (and the utility companies) through solar-plus-storage solutions, most of us still rely on this outdated and inefficient infrastructure for at least some of our power. However, Internet of Things (IoT) technology is providing new ways to increase grid performance.

On the blog at the SAS Institute, a leading analytics firm, Alyssa Farrell writes that “IoT is aligned with three key trends in energy: digitization, decentralization and disruption.” Through digitization, interconnected sensors placed at key points in the grid are able to detect areas of energy loss and even prevent problems (such as power surges) that lead to less efficient operation. IoT solutions also enable distributed generation through solar or wind-generated power systems paired with batteries, which lessen demand on the grid as a whole.

The disruption of the utility monopoly system that IoT and solar providers have begun requires utilities to compete with independent power generators, and consumers are becoming smarter about how they source and consume power.

Powering Green Buildings

The Internet of Things has found a natural ally in the green building movement - a push towards creating structures that prioritize energy efficiency and a minimal impact on their environment. ProudGreenBuilding notes that “The most important impact that IoT has on buildings is energy efficiency. The use of networked sensors helps in providing information that would help managers to control their assets better and also reduce harmful waste in the environment.”

These sensors serve a variety of functions, collecting data about temperature, light, appliance usage, weather forecasts, and more, alongside empowering building owners or managers to remotely adjust everything from lighting to HVAC settings or automate the building completely. A study from the Consumer Technology Association found that just implementing temperature and lighting controls (only the basic components of a full IoT system) can save consumers 10% on their monthly energy expenses. Fully interconnected, automated homes or offices offer the possibility of even greater savings.

The Energy Management Puzzle

For decades, energy-conscious homeowners have tried their best to cut back on energy use by turning off lights in empty rooms or adjusting the thermostat before leaving the house. But no amount of human effort can match the ability of interconnected devices and sensors to collect data and manage themselves. And, as Solar Industry Magazine points out, “There’s the potential for home IoT devices to bridge the gap not just in areas where we’re forgetful about energy use, but where we can’t even see it.”

Connected home systems that include our water heaters, HVAC systems, refrigerators, and more are able to communicate with each other about where power is needed at any given time and adjust to keep a building’s energy usage below certain levels. They can even interface with external temperature or light sensors to determine the best time to cycle appliances on and off. These capabilities have a major impact on a solar power system’s ability to provide all the energy that is needed.

IoT has major implications for the solar industry, but the relationship between these technologies benefits them both. Solar installations, for example, enable IoT systems in remote locations and empower data collection in previously unreachable areas. Together, these technologies will continue to reshape how we generate and consume power.

Are you ready to consider how a solar smart home system could reduce your energy use and impact your energy costs? Contact Solar Design Studio today to learn more about our comprehensive suite of solar consultation, engineering, and implementation.

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