Innovative solutions for creating healthy, efficient, eco-friendly homes

A Household 'Fuel Gauge'

Home automation systems can sometimes seem a bit, well, superfluous. It's nice to be able to control lights all over the house or pre-program the heat, but is it really all that useful? Smart Systems Technologies has developed an automation system that it insists really is useful. Its Em-Power system does all the things you'd expect, like controlling lighting and HVAC and home security, all by transmitting signals over the home's power lines. But it goes beyond that by allowing homeowners to monitor their power consumption on a real-time basis and keep that consumption in line with the household budget. The heart of the system is a touch-screen interface that displays security and HVAC status, home temperature, and household electricity consumption, which the system gets directly from the home's electricity meter. (Note, though, that not all meters can provide that information.) Instead of waiting for your next electricity bill to see how much power was consumed, homeowners using Em-Power can track consumption as it is occurring. The company compares it to having a fuel gauge for the house. The system can be programmed to keep costs down by shutting off devices that aren't needed at the moment and by running appliances, such as dishwashers, during times when electricity costs are lowest. It also can be programmed to prioritize energy usage; when consumption exceeds the homeowner's budget, the system will shut down devices the homeowner decides aren't essential. Em-Power is being marketed through homebuilders and the company's network of installers.