Greener home design incorporates more than the latest eco-friendly materials in its architectural design, it also uses advanced technology to create a home with a lower carbon footprint. By combining technology such as Photovoltaic panels and appliance monitoring, the sustainability and long-term benefits can be tremendous, far outweighing the added cost of installing smart devices. Smart homes began as a way to enhance home security, and still are, but they have evolved into multi-faceted systems that control the entire home environment.

What is a Smart Home?
In the most basic form, a smart house uses sensors to monitor and control power in almost every aspect of the home from lighting, water usage, shutting down circuits that are not in use, and increasing availability when they are. According to Smarthome, a website dedicated to the technology used in such homes, there are several routes you can take to convert to a smart home, based on what you are trying to accomplish and the amount you are willing to invest. Converting to smarter technology doesn’t apply solely to newly built modern homes either. Even older, more historic homes with renovation in mind that lack greener efficiency and don’t have the most current air conditioners or lighting sources can reap incredible benefits from going “smart” and implementing new technologies for the home.

Popular smart home technology offerings include:
• Hardwired – Very reliable, but comes with a high cost. This method requires opening walls and other labor-intensive remodeling.
• Infrared – This is the cheapest way to a smart home, but not well suited for a whole-home installation. It requires line of sight between the controller and connected devices.
• WiFi – Relatively inexpensive, WiFi is limited by the range of devices available. Network size is limited, and is vulnerable to device or controller failure.
• Z-Wave – Use RF technology which has the potential to conflict with other RF device operation. Supports a large number or products, but has the same network limitations as WiFi.
• Insteon – Combines RF technology with powergrid technology, providing the most complete home coverage options. The cost of implementing Insteon is mid-range, and avoids the disadvantages of most smart home solutions.

Smart Homes and Green Technology
The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, in collaboration with Gizmodo, has set up a state-of-the-art smart home exhibit. This model uses smart technology to monitor electric and water use, and monitors actual usage patterns of the residents to anticipate when, for example, more hot water will be needed, or the thermostat should be adjusted for human comfort or power savings. The blinds can be automatically adjusted, and the house can shut down all but vital services when no one is home. On the high-tech side, the home can remember individual occupants’ favorite music, and the mirrors are designed as high definition monitors which provide access to social networks, weather, or your favorite websites. Additionally, the mirrors link into the smart home sensors, providing you with current information about home performance and user settings.

Next Generation Smart Homes
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, HIMSS, is working to improve your health with smart home technology. The idea is that homes which are already designed with sensors to improve the sustainability of the home can also monitor the vital statistics of the occupants. In addition to allowing the home to use these individual signatures to identify and anticipate the needs of individuals in the home, it can also be used to alert you if you are running a fever, forgot to take your medication, or have high blood sugar levels.