Today’s electronic devices are getting more advanced with each passing year. The latest craze for home electronics are smart power devices. But what does that really mean?
These devices can save you a bundle in the long term and give you unprecedented control over your home. To understand more about the impact they can have on our lives, we need to know what they are and how they work.
What Is Smart Power?
This is a relatively new term, which means that it hasn’t been formally defined. In fact, there are two working definitions floating around right now. Let’s look at those.
When the Power Is Smart
This is probably how an electrical engineer would define the phrase. In these cases, it would probably be more accurate to call it “Smart Electricity.” This occurs when devices can manage their electrical intake or output intelligently and flexibly.
This has become far more common in modern chargers. A typical new laptop charger using USB-C can also charge other devices. In the past, this was impossible with “dumb power”.
Plugging a 19v output into a 12v device would have sent smoke and sparks everywhere. Now, the device first communicates to the charger to inform it about what kind of power it needs. Then, the charger can send that exact amount.
This is an example of smart electricity being called smart power. But when we think of smart power, what we really think of is smart devices that control our power.
When the Device Is Smart
Smart power devices include things like light bulb kits, Wi-Fi-connected switches and outlets, and other common electrical components with a smart twist.
What these devices have in common is the use of Wi-Fi to communicate. In some cases, they will link up to your Wi-Fi network. In others, the device you buy will come with a special hub that creates a network just for those devices.
With a connection to your cell phone, the possibilities open up considerably. Just what can these devices do?
What Can These Devices Do?
What you can do with these devices will amaze you. It’s odd to think that we’ve made immense technological advancements in the last century, yet our electricity remains much the same. The things we plug into our walls and ceilings haven’t changed much in decades.
That’s all going to change. Smart light bulb kits are able to change color and intensity on the fly and can be controlled with your phone. Smart switches allow you to turn devices on and off at will, without getting off the couch. Smart outlets give you similar control.
A smart thermostat can sample temperatures from around the house and determine what time of day is best for you to activate or shut off your air conditioning. Instead of a simple thermostat that kicks in when the temperature near it reaches a certain point, a smart one controls the temperature more intelligently.
The key to all of these devices is that you centralize control over your entire electrical network. Currently, each circuit is like its own mini-network. If you want to turn off a light, you have to go up to its switch.
Now you can control your home remotely, even if you’re at work or school. In addition, the house can respond to who is in a given room. For instance, maybe you enjoy one color of lighting while your parents prefer another.
You can also create situational lighting and profiles for various activities. For example, you could set your lights to dim after a certain time in your living room. Perfect for your nightly Netflix session!
But does any of this really matter? Or is it just a few cute tricks that keep me from getting up from my chair? Although it’s in its infancy, smart power has the potential to make some major changes.
How Will Smart Power Change the World?
Our electrical systems are woefully out of date. In a world where climate change has become one of the greatest challenges, we need to become more energy efficient. These devices do just that.
According to a recent report, the United States wastes a whopping 58% of all the energy we produce. Approximately 20% of that energy waste comes out of residential and commercial buildings, which is precisely where we expect to see smart devices installed.
Little things like leaving a light bulb on all day may seem relatively harmless. But multiply your bulb by the thousands, if not millions of people who leave one on every day. Now you have enough energy wasted to power a small town.
Furthermore, installing smart meters and outlets into homes allows us to identify where our power is going. It’s very easy to lose track of our electricity consumption. It’s an ephemeral force, electricity is.
Unlike water, which you see filling up your toilet and running down your drain, electricity is usually invisible. You can’t easily see which devices consume the most. This is where smart outlets and meters can help us to make better decisions.
Are Smart Power Devices Worth the Cost?
This is the biggest roadblock to the mass adoption of these devices. People reel back in shock when they see the sticker price on a set of smart light bulbs. Even simple upgrades like adding USB ports to your wall sockets can cost you quite a bit upfront.
So, are these devices worth it? Maybe not for everyone right now. The initial cost of installing this equipment is expensive, and if you don’t own your home, then it may not make sense to install a smart device in an apartment that isn’t yours. You’ll just be ripping them out when you move.
But, even if early adopters don’t benefit as much as those who jump on later, smart devices save you money monthly. Reducing your electrical and heating costs can pay for the purchase in under a year. Besides that, they can also increase the value of your home.
The future is here, and it’s smart. Pretty soon, these will be the only kinds of electrical devices in our homes. The question is, are you ready for it?