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Ivory Egg / News  / Improve your energy footprint by making your home smarter
An architectural plan with an energy rating certificate

Improve your energy footprint by making your home smarter

The built environment is a major contributor to climate change. Buildings are responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions and approximately 40% of the world’s energy use, with the residential sector consuming 27% of global energy and expelling 17% of the world’s carbon emissions.

It is inevitable that governments will increasingly legislate to improve building practices and reduce energy wastage. Still, new homes being constructed today can get well ahead of the curve by being built with energy efficiency as the top priority.

In developed countries, the energy used in homes is relatively evenly spread across these main categories:

  • Space heating 33-47%
  • Water heating 19-32%
  • Lighting 3-8%
  • Refrigeration 3-10%
  • All other 13-26%

While there are obvious regional variations depending on the climate and social norms of a country, for example on a cold day, New Zealanders are more likely to put on a jersey while Americans would turn up the furnace, these are useful categories to examine for energy saving efficiencies.


US Residential Energy Consumption Survey Data – 2015.  Source: US Energy Information Administration



The Pareto principle or the 80:20 rule definitely applies to energy savings when it comes to building a smart home today – 80% of your energy savings can be made with a 20% effort! But here’s the caveat … as a new home builder, you need to be thinking about what you want your energy footprint to look like right from the outset to ensure you get the biggest wins.

The three biggest energy-saving wins for any home

Here’s what you need to consider to really influence the net energy footprint of your new home.

  • The Building Fabric – This is where you should start with your energy optimisation plan as there are huge wins to be had from insulation, window systems and the placement and orientation of the building just to get started. Your architect or designer is best placed to advise you on these options.
  • Energy Sources – Where will the energy for your new home come from? There are now many domestic solar and wind generation options that enable you to freely generate your own energy to offset your consumption. These can also be intelligently monitored and controlled with building smarts to make sure you are always optimising your energy usage.
  • The Building’s Systems – Here’s where building intelligence really comes into play and can make a significant difference to your energy footprint. Actively monitoring your energy usage and looking for ways to reduce energy waste is a constant process that can be automated for optimal efficiency.

As with all major projects, there are always trade-offs – if you don’t get the most energy-efficient building fabric or heating system, there are still ways to better monitor and manage the energy used in your new home.

Controlling your Energy Usage Intelligently

Left to its own devices a building will naturally ‘leak’ energy from every opening and will continue to use power when it’s not needed.  For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that your new home has the regulated amount of insulation and embedded energy efficiency for your location. What you should now consider is how you can manage the amounts of energy used and wasted from a building systems point of view.

With a building control system like KNX, you can implement and automate a range of mechanisms that will provide you with the best energy usage for your home without having to think about it once it is set up. Some of the building management tools at your disposal for energy management include:

  • Predictive Timing Control of heating and cooling based on weather and planned occupancy. By setting parameters within your Building Management System (BMS), you can set the conditioning of spaces based on outside factors (wind, rain, temperature, sunshine hours etc) as well as the number of people typically occupying a space at certain times of the day to ensure that each room is optimised for those times. Every person emits roughly 100-150W of power just going about their daily business and most of this energy leaves us as heat, which then either adds to the heat in the building or needs to be removed. A building management system enables you to control heating and cooling to intelligently respond to these variables and makes a considerable difference to the energy used when compared to a home that has just an on/off type of climate control.
  • Absence Control is as simple as turning down, or off, the heating or cooling in a space if there is no one in it for a time, which can make for quick and appreciable savings. Lighting energy is not wasted when someone turns the lights on, but causes considerable energy waste when they are not turned off.  Reacting to the absence of people in space can have a much more significant effect than you might think on your energy bill. For example, a bathroom underfloor heating of 500W for a 4m2 bathroom costs roughly $0.15 per hour to run, so, $3.60 per day. By reducing the temperature by 1°C you can save approximately 10% of the required energy input. Or you could reduce the setpoint temperature by 5°C for 2/3 of the day when it is not in use and save about $1.20 per day. These small changes can make significant differences to your energy footprint and they can all be managed automatically by your BMS.
  • Controlling your Energy Sources is another way to make the best use of the energy generated by a sustainable energy source you may have, such as solar or wind power generators. Installing a BMS to manage the use and storage of any energy generated on your property ensures that your home is optimised to use the energy when the biggest loads from hot water, swimming pools, and underfloor heating are drawing the most and only shedding any excess back to the grid (where it will generally attract low value) when it must.
  • Remote Control of your home from an app or website enables you to keep tabs on your building’s energy usage and emissions and to adapt the settings as the building’s use changes.  AI will play a part in this in the future and adapt buildings from learnt trends and behaviour, so putting an intelligent building infrastructure like KNX into a home as it is built, and then applying the latest control methods to it during its lifetime means you can get the most from the initial capital installation, as well as take advantage of new techniques and technology advancements as time goes on.

Ignoring for a moment the energy efficiencies that could be achieved in the building fabric, and with micro-generation, by implementing a BMS in your new home or retro-fitting your existing home, you will be able to sit back and let the system take control of the majority of the work needed to manage your home’s energy usage/wastage and improve your personal carbon footprint.

Ivory Egg Comment

Being able to reduce a building’s energy waste is a great reason for adding intelligence to your home. Whether looked at from an environmental or fiscal angle the benefits are clear, and no modern building feels right if it’s not being designed and built to be the best it can be.  A large part of that is being careful with the energy the building needs to operate, while also ensuring it is looking after the people who use it.

Environmentally friendly buildings are better for your energy costs, better for you and your family, and better for the planet.

If you’d like to discuss how you might add intelligence to your new or existing home, contact us here, we’re more than happy to help advise and put you in touch with the right people for your situation.

Further Resources

There are numerous national and international schemes for measuring, improving and rewarding improvements in energy usage, including: