smart phones make smarter homes 12/2013

Maximizing the versatility of your Phone to Conserve Energy



The ubiquitous smart phone is finally smart enough to save energy in our homes. Apps coming on the market are disrupting legacy lighting, security, and temperature control systems that have been around for years. Many of us have experienced the frustration of visiting a friend and, faced with several remote controls, not being able to even turn on the TV, let alone record a show. We face the same frustration when attempting to program a thermostat, the result being that all too often, the controls are not being used to their full potential. While smart phone enabled apps for homes are still in their infancy, it’s worth being an early adopter, because you can start improving your home’s performance today. And, one more thing, Flavin Architects’ is an early adopter, with these systems being specified in our client’s homes as well as in our own. Here are some of our favorites on the market right now:


Nest Thermostats: Nest Co-founder Tony Fadell was working on his own home in Lake Tahoe, and was frustrated at how unattractive and difficult to use available thermostats were. That led him to design a new thermostat that is connected to a home’s Wi-Fi. Like the iPhone, it is intuitive and easy to use and can be programmed for various schedules. My family uses it to turn down the heat during the night as well as during the day when no one is home. It has an occupancy sensor that automatically adjusts the temperature to accommodate when no one is home. On a monthly basis, Nest sends us a report on our energy performance with suggestions for improvement.


Drop Cam: Home security has never been so easy. Rather than hard wiring your home with cameras and sensors, the Drop Cam is wireless. It can be wall or ceiling mounted, or placed on a desk top or counter. The device can act as a home security system, or can become a baby monitor, all accessible from your smart phone.


LED Lighting: Lighting is responsible for a large portion of home energy bills and an even larger portion of office energy bills. LED lighting consumes less than 10% of the energy of a typical incandescent bulb. Sounds great, but LED lights are infamous for poor color rendition particularly of skin tones.  Phillips electronics HUE bulb allows the color, brightness to be adjusted from your phone. This allows for a warm flattering light while dining and a bright white light when the guests have gone home and it’s time to clean up.


By Colin Flavin AIA, December, 2013