Energy Smart Home Canada (Complete Guide 2019)
Energy Smart Home – A home where all energy appliances respond to their environment to maximize energy efficiency and reduce energy usage. All energy appliances including heating & cooling systems, lighting, and electrical devices can be programed and controlled remotely.
Basic Energy Smart Homes have a smart home hub, smart thermostat, smart lighting, and an energy monitoring system. Advanced Energy Smart Homes also have smart energy storage, a smart meter, and more. You can read about each of these components by selecting one in the menu below, or by reading this page from top to bottom.
The Energy Smart Home Experience
Imagine for a moment that you’re arriving home late on a cold winter day. The main rooms have just warmed from their mid day slumber and the lights turn on to welcome you. You open the door and the house is completely silent, the appliances know not to run during peak hours. As you move from room to room the heating and lighting respond in tandem, predicting your movements perfectly, creating a comfortable ambience as if your home was a warm hug. You ask your thermostat to play the news and your light switch to order dinner.
Smart Home Hub
A Smart Home Hub is the first thing that you’ll want to consider when creating an Energy Smart Home. While most energy smart technologies have their own app or can be controlled verbally – the task becomes increasing complicated with the more energy smart technologies you own.
A Smart Home Hub consolidates the control of all your energy technologies into a single app, giving you the best experience and the most control over your energy. This means that instead of using an app for your smart thermostat, an app for you smart lighting, and an app for your smart appliances – you can use a single Smart Home Hub app!
Without a doubt, the most convenient and integrated Smart Home Hubs are the Google Home and the Amazon Echo (Alexa) – both doubling as digital assistants. The Amazon Alexa App is pictured in this section but both work with most energy smart technologies.
Note that many of the energy smart technologies discussed in the following sections have Alexa already built in, so there may be additional benefits of choosing the Eco if you plan on purchasing those products also!
Smart Thermostats today do much more than program temperature settings – they heat & cool based on your movements in the house, they provide you with monthly energy reports to compare with your neighours, and they can be controlled through your smartphone or via a Smart Home Hub.
For these reasons, smart thermostats tend to be the first energy smart home device that most Canadians purchase. They typically cost about $200, take 30 minutes to install, and save 20% of heating & cooling costs annually.
Several smart thermostats exist on the market, but the best is arguably the ecobee – a smart thermostat that’s “made by Canadians, for Canadians”.
The ecobee sells and supports unlimited temperature and occupancy sensors, as well as a line of Smart Light Switches that serve the same purpose. Additionally, both the light switches and the ecobee4 have the digital assistant Alexa built right in.
For those interested in a slightly more expensive option, you may prefer the Nest Thermostat. Nest does not offer smart light switches like ecobee does, but they do sell a wide variety of non-energy products like smart smoke detectors and house alarms.
Several provinces have rebates for smart thermostats, be sure to check your province’s Energy Rebates and Incentives options before purchasing.
Smart Lighting devices are a natural next step for most Canadians. Beyond being extremely convenient, smart lighting devices can significantly reduce your home’s electricity usage through the sensing and timing of various lights.
Smart lighting devices fall into the three general categories:
Smart Light Bulbs
The most popular smart light bulb is the Phillips HUE. Apart from being extremely efficient (10Watts), these LED bulbs last an average 25,000 hours. That’s equal to 22.8 years if used an average of 2.7 hours per day. You could buy this bulb, have children, and watch them graduate before needing to replace the HUE.
As shown in the image above, there are a variety of features available with the HUE, mostly focused around productivity and fun. However, there are also significant power saving benefits associate with dimming and timing light use. The HUE also works with all major digital assistants.
There are several other bulbs on the market that perform very closely the HUE, however they are generally mimics – offering similar or less features for a comparable price.
Efficiency tip: Always buy LED light bulbs. LEDs are 9x more efficient that traditional incandescent light bulbs and 10% more efficient than CFLs. LEDs also last far longer than others, typically between 12 and 25 years.
Smart Light Switches
Light switches are inherently more focused on energy efficiency than productivity and fun (compared to smart bulbs), however the more recent switches are really pushing the boundary.
As we discussed earlier, the ecobee smart light switch is the most notable Canadian made switch on the market. It’s occupancy sensors seamlessly adjust the lighting in your home based on your movements. The occupancy sensor (as well as the built in temperature sensor) can also relay information to your smart thermostat for more efficient heating & cooling.
In terms of productivity and fun (besides not needing to adjust light switched manually) the ecobee smart light switch has the digital assistant Alexa built right right. You can ask your switch to adjust your room’s lighting, change the temperature, play the news, order bananas – just about anything you want!
Another way that you can control the lighting in your home is via smart plugs. Smart plugs give you more granular control over individual plugins that are not connected to the smart light switch and to individual lights that are not smart light bulbs.
All you need to do is purchase a smart plugin and connect it between your lights and the wall socket. Afterwards, you can simply ask Alexa or any other digital assistant to turn on your lamp and/or reading light.
Note that most smart plugins can also be controlled remotely with a special app or with your smart home hub app (i.e. Amazon Eco).
Energy Monitoring System
One of the most interesting ways to decrease your home’s energy usage is by installing an energy monitoring system. Energy monitors work by sensing the unique patters of electricity flow going through your home’s main power lines, and then translating these patterns into electricity usage by individual appliance. This lets you know exactly how much energy the major appliances in your home are using at any given time.
One of the best energy monitoring systems on the market is the Energy Monitor by Sense. It clamps directly to your home’s power line at the breaker box, can be installed in less than 30 minutes, and requires no additional wiring.
After connected, real time and historical energy usage can be viewed on a mobile and desktop app. The Energy Monitor by Sense shows you see how much power is used by major appliances in your home, and then it suggest opportunities for savings.
Just being able to view your home’s electricity usage has be shown to decrease usage by 20% alone!
If you’re planning on getting a solar photovoltaic system, then the Energy Monitor by Sense is doubly recommended as it can just as easily detect how much power your system in producing at any given time and then display this in your dashboard along with your usage statistics.
The Neurio is another great energy monitoring system that you may want to consider as it (along with the Sense) is offered by many solar and energy installers in Canada.
Smart Energy Storage
Storing produced energy for everyday use is relatively uncommon here in Canada due to the high cost and low overall capacity of batteries – you wouldn’t count on them to move off the grid with.
However, batteries become an attractive option if you’re using them as part of an energy smart home. They can be programed to take serious financial advantage of Time-of-Use (TOU) rates in a variety of circumstances.
- Smart batteries can purchase electricity from the electrical grid during the day or overnight for use in the home when TOU rates are high – resulting in financial savings.
- If you have a solar system, a smart battery can store energy produced during the day and sell it to the grid during periods of peak demand – maximizing the revenue earned for energy production.
Interestingly, electric vehicles (which have very large battery capacities) can serve these functions as well. This means that if you already own an EV like a Tesla or Nissan Leaf, you may not need another battery system.
In fact, the electrical utility industry is already planning for when large numbers of autonomous EVs will be used to store and transport energy around the grid. And you can bet that they’ll be interested in paying you for that service as well!
Smart Metering & Other
Smart Meters are commonly seen as an integrative component of an energy smart home – serving as the interface between the smart home and the smart grid. However, most of the potential benefits are still futuristic as energy smart cities are not yet a reality.
For example, one promise of smart meters is that they will respond to utility information to reduce in-home usage when the grid is suddenly stressed due to high demand – increasing the resilience of the energy network. They would also be able to shift in-home power use to times when Time-of-Use (TOU) rates are low – resulting in financial savings. However, without energy smart city infrastructure, these benefits are not possible.
That said, smart meters still currently offer one major benefit for homeowners: power bills no longer need to be estimated as real-time energy use can be viewed on ~5 minute intervals. This would lead to less confusion on power bills and immediate positive feedback for any energy saving technology that you have installed in your home.
If you’ve ever left the stove on or the fridge open (maybe because it’s been so full) – then you’ll understand why smart appliances are useful. They will send you notifications when something is left running or when things just go wrong (leaking dishwasher or washing machine).
Most smart appliances can also listen to your commands and can be programmed remotely. For example, GE has a full line of wifi-connected kitchen, laundry, and AC appliances that you can control, monitor, and program using their smartphone app or with Alexa. Another obvious benefit of smart appliances is that they can be scheduled – something particularly important for those on TOU rates.
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