Control panels for home electricity circuits of the future will need to be as low consumption as possible in order to remain environmentally friendly.
This is as though many people are adept at following standard advice regarding turning off light switches and machines to reduce their electricity consumption and therefore their bills and carbon footprint, they are often much less aware of the standby power consumption of devices.
It is not just televisions and fridges that can cause problems though. This is likely to become an increasingly pressing issue as people start to use more smart devices in their home. While smart devices can really help to reduce electricity consumption, for example by putting lighting, heating and other device usage onto timers, they in fact have significant energy consumption themselves in order to keep running.
Very often smart devices will continuously monitor a situation in order to provide a feedback loop that will ultimately result in energy savings. A heating system will continuously or very frequently take the temperature of a home in order to ensure that the heating system is only on for the minimum time necessary to keep a house at a certain temperature. However, this device in itself requires energy as it has to be on all the time to provide the continuous monitoring.
Similarly, lighting that only comes on at night must either be on standby to turn on at a pre-programmed time, or must have sensors for the light level active at all times in order to work.
Despite the fundamental importance of this it is an often overlooked aspect of smart technology. A device can only save money and energy if the energy consumption for continuous monitoring is less than the device normally uses as standard.
Berkley Labs estimates that standby power makes up to one per cent of total energy consumption world-wide and according to a report from the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), always-on but inactive devices can cost Americans $19B annually which require 50 large power stations to maintain the US alone.
Smart control panels themselves can go some way to helping people to minimise usage, for example by providing data fed back from plugs about energy consumption to the smart metre and providing graphs for users to see. This means that somebody could turn off a device remotely via a smart phone device app.
So how can we reduce the energy consumption of control panels? With smart devices one of the first places to start is considering the environmental impact of the carbon generated by internet usage.
In order to improve this a business could consider switching to a more environmentally-friendly internet provider, one with carbon offsetting perhaps.
There also needs to be work done into the optimal amount of monitoring that needs to be done in order to make savings. Perhaps continuous monitoring isn’t ideal in some circumstances, so could a control panel be programmed to provide intermittent monitoring instead in an attempt to reduce energy usage?