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Home energy management systems (HEMS) are rapidly gaining popularity around the world as the technology behind them improves and as small-scale solar power and battery storage become more viable.
But what exactly constitutes a home energy management system? We’ve seen some conflicting descriptions; with this article we aim to bring some clarity to the discussion.
Definition of HEMS
Like anything, the definition of ‘home energy management system’ varies a little bit, especially depending on who you ask! will differ slightly from source to source, but we believe the below neatly encapsulates the concept without being too broad.
'A home energy management system is a technology platform comprised of both hardware and software that allows the user to monitor energy usage and production and to manually control and/or automate the use of energy within a household.'
A home energy management system’s hardware usually consists of a ‘hub’ device which relays communications between the goings on inside the house, the user and in some cases the local utility or electricity retailer.
This hub is usually installed on the home’s electrical board, but may also be installed ‘virtually’ in cases where the HEMS operates purely on a wireless network. Other, less essential components may include ‘smart plugs‘, light & temperature sensors, and smart devices within the home.
The software used in a HEMS is what moderates the ingoing and outgoing data and communications. From a user’s perspective, the software is the interface that allows access to monitoring data and control functions of the system. The interface usually takes the form of an app or web portal.
The software for some HEMS has the express goal of increasing the energy effectiveness or efficiency of the household, while the focus of others is simply to control devices remotely or automatically for convenience or security purposes.
As for monitoring, the sophistication of the way in which the data is displayed will vary, but will usually include some variation of the below:
- Device & appliance data – Which devices are on and off? How much energy is each one using?
- Granularity of time data – What is the smallest time increment that the system keeps track of – or that it displays to the viewer?
- Insights delivered – Does the system send notifications to tip off the user to trends and issues that they may not pick up on without parsing through the data themselves?
As for control, a HEMS may allow a user to do a range of things, including:
- Turn devices on and off remotely
- Set devices to operate on schedules
- Set up conditional rules for device operation
- Manage the flow of energy from solar panels (and other generators) through the home or in and out of batteries
- Allow ‘machine learning‘ to take over and run the system semi-automatically
Smart Home Energy Management first started with Energy Star certified appliances. The appliances have evolved and become more energy efficient but so has our technological management of them, and our homes. It boggles the mind that when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone in 2007 we would be living in this wireless, wifi driven, smart device managed world in 2020! But here we are, and don't we love it!
So, if you can't afford to build a LEED home, you can still have a VERY accurate and smart energy managed home! Of course it comes with purchasing the most energy efficient products possible, but it also can be done with home design, and with the whole home integrated process we use here at Technology Design Associates.
Smart Design, Automated Shading and Lighting
HomeWorks QS, designed for exclusive homes, integrates the control of all your light, interior and exterior, electric light and daylight. The system also integrates with other manufacturers for audio-visual and HVAC control, as well, for broader control of your home environment. And it does all of that while saving energy. So you’re not only choosing a system that will redefine your way of living, you’re also investing in a system which can pay for itself over the life of your home.
As early as 1993 Lutron introduced their Palladion line of shades. They are now integrated and sync with the rest of the home. So much so, that if the sun shines in your house during the Summer, you can program your shades to deploy to keep your home cool. The same applies for Winter, keeping the shade up when the sun is shining in.