Water conservation

At the Pacific Coast Builders' Conference in San Francisco this week, you can find the elements of home design and smart materials beginning to emerge, perhaps the future of super connected homes.

Today, innovations showcasing ideas like water conservation, money savings, and energy management are found in one-off products, but as standards and systems begin to emerge, these individual elements will one day come together to build the home of the future, an intelligently managed, smoothly running home that harvests energy, manages systems, and controls use in the best ways to fit our lives.

By simply switching aerators on your faucet, for example, from 2.2 gallon per minute aerators to 1.5 gallon per minute aerators, home water use can be reduced by 11,800 gallons, or 30 percent each year.

Individually these tools can save pennies or a few dollars per day, but when integrated into a more eloquent system, we can see the huge savings of having a smart home.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET

Solar technology

Small solar panels are being used to power all kinds of home systems. Here, a solar panel embedded in the roof by Tamko is used to run an attic fan, reducing the heat in enclosed areas.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET

GE smartgrid

General Electric is showing off all kinds of home appliances, from washers and dryers to microwaves, refrigerators, and water heaters, that are connected to the grid and provide intelligent management of appliances and their systems.

One thing holding back smart grid connected appliances, a GE engineer said, was the ability of regional energy companies to send and receive data to these appliances.

This water heater is equipped with a data port, but until the systems are capable of exchanging information with the grid, the appliances can't make the best decisions for the home.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET
Web-based applications can be used to monitor appliances that are connected to the smart grid, and eventually, GE hopes to be able to control appliances via the Web and smartphone apps.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET

Time is money

Intelligent devices connected to the smart grid will be able to automatically decide when is the best and most cost effective time to run.

Energy can cost 10 times more during peak hours, and when connected to the smart grid, your washing machine will be able to automatically delay its actions until off-peak hours.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET

Post consumer

Post consumer cotton materials, which are 100 percent recycled, are being used as insulation in environmentally friendly homes. UltraTouch provides maximum R-value performance with a woven construction process that contains thousands of tiny air pockets for maximum thermal protection.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET

Thin-film

Lining metal roofing with a thin-film photovoltaic laminate, Fusion Solar integrates Uni-Solar technologies that require no structural support, and are flexible, which allows for expansion and contraction.

The design lays flat on a roof and aesthetically integrates well as it doesn't require the complex framing of typical photovoltaic panels. It's sturdy and durable, and once installed, you can walk on the solar panels just the same as a standard roof.
While home building still has a long way to go before we are living with always-on, low maintenance systems, the pieces are getting smarter and beginning to speak the same languages of efficiency and interconnectedness that will some day make every home smarter, working more efficiently, and living better.
Photo by: James Martin/CNET

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