Beyond the obvious advantages to the environment, having a smart home or green home can also pay financial dividends. After all, both are designed to use fewer resources such as water, electricity and heating fuel.
But for many people, deciding which way to go - green or smart - can be a confusing process. Some common questions are "Can I make my home greener?" and "What is the return on investment for upgrading?". While the answers can be different for each homeowner, understanding the differences are key to making the right decision.
Smart homes, once the stuff of science fiction, have now become a viable and affordable option for many homeowners. A smart home is essentially a house with a central computer system that monitors the internal and external environments, and makes changes as needed.
For example, during the day when no one is at home, the thermostat may be automatically adjusted to reduce heating energy. Doors may be automatically locked at a certain time in the evening. Exterior lighting may be turned on or off depending on when it gets dark. Additional features such as home entertainment systems and appliances can also be controlled through a central "smart" system.
Access by internet or smart phone can give homeowners the ability to control or make changes to the system remotely.
Turning your house into a smart home is not difficult or overly costly. Many companies have developed PC based systems that can be installed quickly and with no mess. In addition, a number of appliance manufacturers are now integrating PC compatible connections into their products for use with smart home systems.
A green home is a building that was designed and built to be environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle - from design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction.
Green homes are made using materials that are as environmentally friendly as possible and/or provide the most energy efficient performance. These include heating and cooling systems that use less energy, such as solar water heating and geothermal central heating. They are also sourced locally when possible to reduce their carbon footprint.
Green homes take into account every aspect of energy use and are designed to minimize wastage while enhancing the indoor environment. For example, indoor lighting would depend primarily on natural sunlight through the use of larger windows and skylights. Walls and flooring would be made from natural materials like bamboo that do not negatively impact on indoor temperature.
Like smart homes, green homes may also integrate the use of a central computer system to monitor and control energy usage.
But unlike smart homes, a green home is designed from the ground up to be "green". And while environmentally responsible changes can be made to any home, it cannot be classified as a green home. However that should not deter you. Efficient heating and cooling systems, thermal windows and doors, and more efficient lighting will not only have a positive impact in the environment, but also your pocket book.