Smart Building Technology: Building for the Future

Kamin Whitehouse, a computer science professor here at UVa, has for many years been leading a project with the aim to produce a home that will give detailed feedback on energy usage in a household. In 2013, 40% of total U.S. energy consumption was consumed in residential and commercial buildings, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Household energy is largely used by heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, which account for nearly 43% of the total household energy usage.

Graphic from the US EIA
Eenrgy usage comparison of Virginia, US, and South Atlantic Region. Graphic from the US EIA.

The goal of the project is to be able to track individuals energy use within the home, to truly know how energy use could be decreased. The developed sensors, at approximately $25, will be able to zero-in on an individual to know how they use energy while in the home, but also be able to reduce energy waste due to human error. In addition to tracking the usage, the goal is to be able to minimize energy use as a whole, such as being able to know when to turn off the heating or cooling system when the occupant leaves the room. Incredible amounts of programming must go in, especially if the system will be able to plan ahead for occupants by pre-heating and cooling the house or a room before the occupant arrives.

The sensors are able to monitor water usage in the shower
Another example of the sensor capabilities, they can record the amount of usage from toilets and sinks.

Whitehouse has said this is even more applicable outside of energy savings, but because of the detailed usage that is recorded by the system, there is even applicability in roommates splitting energy bills more fairly, something I know would lessen tension between many students.

Its amazing how much can be done with simple sensors in a household, especially at only $25. The team has been working for over 4 years on developing their system, and we can only hope that this is more widely implemented in the future to reduce wasteful energy use in households across the country and globe.


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