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Slide 1

Prepared for Home Performance Coalition by Kara Saul Rinaldi and Elizabeth Bunnen

It is important that those with the ability to champion the increasingly interwoven issues of energy and intelligent technology work together to decrease barriers and advance the smart home market and smart home performance industry.

Introduction

Smart technology has been an evolving vision for centuries. Since simple clock and watch gears took the place of sundials, humans have learned that technology can make our lives easier. But can technology learn, evolve, and react to the specific needs of specific people? Science fiction has long tantalized us with both malevolent and benevolent robots, with “artificial intelligence” placed in devices that allow them to problem solve and learn. In homes, machine automation offers a vision for making lives easier, requiring little owner direction to optimize systems. But homeowners are not the only ones utilizing the brains of the devices. As homes become “smart,” residential demand response programs have emerged to use smart thermostats and water-heaters to shift energy loads at the utility’s convenience and the bill payer’s profit. But there is a tendency to forget the “dumb technology,” such as insulation and duct work, double-paned windows and weatherstripping, that is more passive but most effective at reducing energy consumption. These traditional technologies must also be optimized to ensure that health and comfort are part of a smart, efficient home package.

Untapped potential exists to use smart home technologies to target leaky, inefficient homes that cannot hold a constant temperature when a demand response event is called as part of a utility program. Furthermore, ensuring home performance contractors who meet with a homeowner to upgrade their insulation or HVAC unit feel confident about “smart home” technology is critical so that efficient home retrofits include intelligent efficiency elements in the installation. Security and entertainment companies expanding into the smart technology space need also to recognize smart home design energy elements, so homeowners see their home as an energy system, linked through intelligent communication.

There continue to be challenges for the “smart home” as the interoperability of appliances, systems, and gadgets seamlessly communicating with each in an easily installed manner remains elusive and often complex. Further, the residential “buildings to grid” conundrum faces policy challenges as homes that produce energy from solar power and save energy through efficiency change predict-ed demand curves and should integrate more fully in grid infrastructure design.

This report aims to identify and address many of the evolving obstacles to synergy between home performance and smart home technologies with the ability to make “intelligent” homes more energy-efficient, comfortable, and grid-responsive.