Smart Home Experiment









This summer (2014), I decided to conduct a smart home experiment with my 4 boys and some of their friends in the school robotics club. 

During the past several years, I’ve watched technology make significant strides in renewable energy, programmable thermostats, energy-efficient light bulbs, and many other amazing products.  But that being said, there haven’t been too many advancements in tying all of these technologies into one system that can efficiently work together.


Our goal for the smart home experiment is to:

  • Conduct a pilot test of renewable energy generation options & storage technologies that are scalable for larger applications
  • Conduct an energy audit and institute consumption reduction efforts through smart home controls
  • Measure and report energy generation and consumption reduction results.
  • The smart home experiment will expose the kids to basic energy measurement, renewable energy options, awareness on what consumes energy in our home, along with some basic wiring and electricity.

    We also got a chance to work with some great vendor partners for this effort which we’ll detail on subsequent pages, as we do thorough reviews on their products’ performance.  These include:  Goal Zero, Renogy, and WindBlue Power.

    The pictures below detail our starting concept and how we planned to wire the devices together:


    After a lot of on-line product review sifting and reading various evaluations, we decided on buying the following items, below, for our smart home experiment.  Our plan is to thoroughly test each of them.  As we do, we’ll create links for each one that details the product and our experiences with it:

    1. Goal Zero Yeti 1250
    2. Renogy Monocrystalline 100W panels
    3. WindBlue Power Lite Breeze Wind Turbine
    4. VMAX 100ah solar charge tank (chain to Yeti 1250 for added storage)
    5. Watt meters for measurement
    6. 250W DC scooter motor – exercise bike generator
    7. 3.5W micro hydro turbine for sump pump energy recovery
    8. AcuRite 3-in-1 weather station with anemometer


    Smart Home Experiment - Wiring Plan





    The smart home concept is very attainable with today’s technology, but yet it still has a long way to go.  It’s really exciting to think what the future can hold…picture this:  Your home has an energy storage system that collects and stores energy from the sun, wind, exercise and heat loss; your home senses when it is unoccupied and reduces lighting and heating or air-conditioning; your electric car plugs into a smart energy storage system that can redirect or store energy where most needed; power plants are reduced in size and number and become efficiently located within the communities that they support.  It’s closer to reality than you think!


    Why do a Smart Home Experiment?


    For kids (or adults) that ask why is this even worth it?  I’ve given them my hybrid car statistics:

    • In March 2012, I decided to replace my small commuter car with a Honda Insight (hybrid).
    • From March 2012 to March 2014, I drove 28,000 miles on 583    gallons of gas (Average=48 mpg).
    • My old car averaged 25 mpg which would have taken 1,120 gallons to go the same distance.
    • Driving on 537 less gallons saved me almost $2,000 in gas in 2 years and it saved 1,170 pounds of carbon from going into the air we breathe!  you’re welcome J

    I know that I’m thrilled with my decision to get a hybrid!


    Below are the planning phases with the questions that our team will have to answer:

    • Conduct an energy audit:  We’ll dive into our home energy bill; figure out what uses the most energy in our house; how to save energy; and how to overall reduce energy use when we’re not at home.
    • Look at our home’s potential for renewable energy:  Where should we put the solar panels and wind turbine?; How is our home oriented?  Which areas get the most sun?; What’s the predominate wind direction and speeds?; Are there opportunities for energy recovery (wasted energy leaving our home)?
    • Energy Storage:  If we can generate energy from the sun and wind, what do we do with it?  How much storage is enough?
    • Renewable energy uses:  How much energy do we expect to generate from the sun & wind each day?  What do we do with it?  What daily energy loads (lights, TVs, computers, etc…) match nicely with our expected renewable input so that we can use all the energy generated on a daily basis without turning any free energy away, or run the risk of using too much energy so that we run our batteries dry?  Which months will we generate the most energy?  Which months will we generate the least?
    • Storm water management:  Where does the rainwater run-off from our roof and driveway go?  Follow it from road to the catch basin to the creek and beyond.  Wouldn’t it be better to allow more rain water to percolate into the soil?  How do we do it?

    Please keep checking back or subscribe to our blog, as we continue to build, test, and update our information based on what we’ve learned.

    We hope that our smart home experiment sparks your thoughts & creativity on its many possibilities which might just bring this futuristic concept into a near-term reality!


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