The prevalence of the connected home has proliferated over the past few years and will only grow as new use cases emerge. From switching out “dumb” light switches in favor of smart control panels to automating doorbells, there is no shortage of possibilities for home upgrades with the latest technology.
Many homeowners approach tech with a mindset to make their life safer, easier or more convenient. However, there is a larger focus on one often-overlooked benefit of the smart home: energy savings.
Home automation is an effective way to lessen energy and resource usage, and it also helps to cut down on utility and maintenance costs. Energy costs can be even more apparent in the summer months. With cooling making up a whopping 16 percent of electricity costs for U.S. households, homeowners are looking at ways to cut back.
Monitoring software that tracks carbon footprints, smart thermostats that regulate temperature precisely and other means of controlling energy within the home are becoming more commonplace. However, there is one energy-saving technology that has been flying under the radar — automated window treatments.
Scott Stephenson has over 14 years of experience in the connected home space and manages the automated shading solutions at Hunter Douglas. We connected with him to get the scoop on how smart shades can help improve insulation and reduce energy bills in hot summer months.
(Note: This interview has been edited for style and length).
Which methods of energy management are most popular in the smart home?
Homeowners are seeking reliable and simple ways to monitor and control the temperature throughout their entire home. This becomes especially important and challenging in those hot summer months where humidity and intense sunshine come into play.
One fast-growing technology that smart homeowners use to help keep temperature in check is an energy monitoring device. When integrated into existing smart home systems, energy management meters give a birds-eye, real-time view of how much energy the home is consuming, and which systems are responsible for the most exertion.
This technology allows homeowners to make decisions about which areas of the home need to be prioritized for heating, cooling, insulation and electricity savings.
A smart thermostat is another powerful tool for energy management in the home. It allows homeowners to control their home’s cooling systems from anywhere via mobile apps, monitor and adjust energy usage, and report system issues into homeowners in real time. Every home has a thermostat, so it comes as no surprise that a lot of homeowners upgrade to a smart thermostat.
Every home has windows, too. As a result, smart window treatments are spiking in popularity as a home-energy management solution. With options to integrate shades into existing smart systems and design options to regulate insulation, the smart shading sector offers a new way to stop energy loss at the window.
How does shading improve energy efficiency?
Windows play a huge role in temperature regulation: The U.S. Department of Energy reports that in older homes, window systems typically account for 25 percent of annual heating and cooling costs but can be responsible for as much as 40 percent. That said, protection at the window is key.
When automated, shades can adjust on a schedule based on how the sun moves around the house and in coordination with other devices like a smart thermostat. They can insulate the window in the winter to keep warm air in and block the sun in the summer to keep the heat out.
By integrating with existing smart home systems, homeowners have the option to adjust their shades at any time, from anywhere, with a convenient press of a button, a voice command or within a mobile app. Power options like rechargeable battery wands and hardwired systems ensure that shades perform reliably when insulation is needed most, like at high noon when the sun is glaring.
Which styles are available for energy efficiency?
From shade styles designed specifically to insulate up to 80 percent of unwanted solar heat at the window to fabrics that stop UV rays from infiltrating the home, implementing smart shading solutions offer the material benefits of energy-saving fabrics and the functional benefits of automation.
Automated shades allow homeowners to let light in nearly instantly when it’s cool and close blinds on scorching days. Cellular shades, like Hunter Douglas’ Duette Honeycomb Shades, are specially engineered to provide energy efficiency at the window with honeycomb construction.
This design traps air in distinct pockets, creating insulation that can help lower energy consumption and bills. Room darkening and blackout fabrics for shades also contribute to energy efficiency.
Select fabrics for Hunter Douglas Duette Honeycomb Shades, Applause Honeycomb Shades, Sonnette Cellular Roller Shades and Designer Screen Shades come with an additional credibility proof-point for temperature regulation: Attachments Energy Ratings Council (AERC) certification.
AERC provides an unbiased, third-party certification of the energy-saving potential of a window attachment product. AERC-rated and certified window treatments offer benefits across climates helping maintain temperature so homeowners are not spending more than they need to on heat or air conditioning.
What other advantages does smart shading bring to the home?
Smart shades can enhance other key smart home features, such as convenience, security and privacy, and entertainment. Installed alongside existing smart home technologies, the shades can support lighting scenes, provide privacy at night with a simple command and filter the natural sunlight into the space for ambiance.
Options like room-darkening fabrics can also enhance entertainment features in a smart home, offering a way to block light out of the living room for movie-viewing or the bedroom for sleeping.
Smart shading also offers one major advantage unmatched by most home technologies: thoughtful, beautiful design. Shade styles and fabrics in custom sizes, colors and textures can suit the decor of any room, which adds a unique opportunity to simultaneously add functionality and aesthetic.
From the design options to the technology, the energy savings and benefits of smart shading offer tremendous value for the homeowner and home technology professional.
Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis and co-author of Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.