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Go green at home

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Researchers worldwide are coming up with new ideas to make our homes more eco-friendly. For sustainably-minded households, these 2020 innovations could be a good place to start.

Let’s start with the Hydraloop residential water recycling system, which won the 2020 Consumer Electronic Show’s (CES) Best Innovation Award in the Sustainability, Eco-Design & Smart Energy category. The Hydraloop system cleans and disinfects greywater from washing machines and baths so that it can be reused to flush toilets, fill pools or be used again in the washing machine.

Inventor Arthur Valkieser couldn’t understand why all over the world, people flush their toilets with clean drinking water. He believes that everyone has to start recognising the true cost and real value of water, saying: “If we continue to treat our water resources like we do today, we’ll be unable to ensure a secure supply of water for future generations.

Right now, the availability of freshwater is already under pressure worldwide and water stress is growing in many regions. The United Nations expect our planet to have 9.7 billion inhabitants in the year 2050, and demand for water is expected to increase by an additional 20-30 per cent by then. We simply can’t go on using water in the exact way as before.”

Valkieser created a compact, sustainable, decentralised water recycling system that can be easily installed in any home or commercial building. The idea behind it is simple: cleaning and reusing the water from showers, baths and washing machines is the most effective and economical way to save water. Valkieser adds: “Recycling water right at the source means people can reuse about 85 per cent of in-house mains water. The recycled water is clean, clear, safe and disinfected. It can be used for flushing toilets, operating the washing machine, irrigating the garden, topping off swimming pools and for cleaning purposes. By using their water twice, people save 45 per cent on water consumption and 45 per cent on sewage emissions.”

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Hydraloop recycles and filters the water through a six-step process that includes sedimentation, dissolved air flotation and UV light disinfection. The system is also highly customisable, with users able to prioritise when and for what purpose the recycled water is used via an app.

When you think that in the UK, an average shower uses 46 litres of water and the daily water use in a home with two people living in it is 276 litres, the Hydraloop system could have a significant impact on better water management as pressure on supplies grow through both population growth and climate change.

Outside, the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller makes keeping the garden watered easier, as well as more energy and water efficient. If you’ve got an installed irrigation system for your plants then the mobile app, available on Android and Apple, enables eight or 16 zones to be controlled depending on the unit, from one master valve terminal. It can be turned on and off remotely with a smartphone, plus, it integrates with lots of other services and devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and Samsung SmartThings.

With an in-built weather monitor, Weather Intelligence Plus, it tracks temperature, rainfall and humidity so only waters when it needs to, and as much as it needs to. It uses advanced weather forecasting from a network of over 300,000 global weather stations to deliver the right amount of water. It automatically skips watering when enough rain is in the forecast, and changes with the weather to adjust for wind, freezing temperatures, actual precipitation values and more.

If it rains, but not quite enough, it will still switch on to ensure your plants get the amount of water they need. But when the rainfall is sufficient, it won’t waste water by watering the plants again.

The latest temperature managements innovations are keeping homes cooler, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, providing better sleep, and making it easier to keep temperatures even all around the house while cutting energy use.

OxiCool’s HomeCool is an innovative air-conditioning system for homes that uses water as a coolant rather than the commonly-used refrigerants that harm the environment, meaning there are zero greenhouse gases emitted while it’s in use. And if it uses water recycled by the Hydraloop system its environmental credentials would be even greater.

The company claims to be the first to figure out how to use water as a refrigerant in a non-freezing capacity. Its technology uses molecular sieves in vacuum-sealed units made from stainless steel. The amount of electricity the HomeCool needs is also significantly lower than traditional air conditioning systems, as much as 90 per cent less depending on the system it replaces.

The system’s huge sustainability advances in the home cooling market were recognised by CES 2020 innovation awards, too, with Home Cool being named as an Honoree.

Meanwhile, in the bedroom, Sleep Number’s Climate360 smart bed can keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer while helping you get a better night’s sleep. Another CES 2020 sustainability innovation, Honoree, Sleep Number believe that they have invented the world’s most advanced smart bed technology. The Climate360 features a first-of-its-kind, proprietary ducting system combined with an advanced high airflow technology, both of which are embedded in the mattress, to exhaust trapped air.

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Up to 12°C of cooling can be achieved through an evaporative cooling process, while beds can be warmed up to 100°C. Clinical research and initial results with the Climate360 have shown that the bed reduces core body temperature throughout the night, so decreases the number of times people wake up.

Its smart credentials mean it can adapt each side of the bed to suit different body types and automatically changes firmness and temperature based on the signals its receiving. Plus it measures average heart rate, breath rate, and movement; tracks sleep/wake cycles; and shows sleep health over time.

The Climate 360 smart bed has been pushed back to a 2022 release date and will only be available in the US.

The Ecobee Smart Thermostat has a single remote room SmartSensor that helps keep temperatures uniform throughout the house, even in rooms that are far away from the thermostat. While the eco+ Schedule Assistant can adapt the thermostat’s schedule to suit your routine so that you’re never wasting energy, or money, on heating the home when you don’t need to. For example, as the system gets to know your home’s heating and cooling patterns, it learns how long it takes to reach your desired temperature. So if you always get up at 7am, and come in from work at 6pm. it will start heating and cooling your home in advance so it’s comfortable when you wake up and come home.

Using this smart thermostat can help save up to 23 per cent of annual energy costs as it adjusts for indoor humidity, time-of-use energy prices, and local demand so that you spend less on heating your home.

Controlled either through voice commands using Amazon Alexa or through a mobile app, available on both iOS and Android, it gives you complete control of your heating both when you’re at home and when you’re out. The monthly reports also show you how you can save even more energy to cut your costs, and improve sustainability, even further.

The latest smart innovations are also making cooking and cleaning easier and more environmentally friendly. Cutting detergent and water use when cleaning the floors; and reducing food waste and cooking time in the kitchen.

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The CookingPal ‘Julia’ is a smart kitchen cooking machine from TecPal Ltd. Through state-of-the-art design and functionality, video-guided cooking and AI food recognition it chops, mixes, steams, kneads, emulsifies, weighs and cooks, all within one machine, which can be controlled via a smartphone app or the dedicated Smart Kitchen Hub Tablet which has been tailor-made for use in the kitchen.

This one machine can be used to replace a food processor, kitchen scales, steamer, kneading machine, slow cooker, mixer, blender, rice cooker, yogurt and ice cream makers. Meaning the amount of primary resources being used to manufacture all these different machines could be cut drastically if people bought just the one machine instead.

The smart app can suggest meals based on what you have in your fridge and cupboards; can connect to online food shopping to order specific recipe ingredients for you; and tells you how much to put in for each person so you don’t end up making too much and throwing leftovers away. Plus, it enables you to control the cooking from any room in the house.

When it’s housework time, the Floor One S3 from Tineco Intelligent Technology Co. is a smart wet/dry vacuum cleaner that can save energy, water and detergent. The company claims this is the world’s first smart wet/dry floor washer and vacuum that can automatically detect how dirty and gritty the floor is to apply the appropriate amount of detergent, roller pressure, and suction power, to ensure the perfect hard floor clean every time. The automatic adjustments of suction power and water flow mean floors are instantly dry and are left streak-free.

It also has a self-clean function that flushes all tubes and contact surfaces after each use, ensuring that every time it’s used it starts out fresh and hygienic.

Home lighting is being transformed so that your lamps not only light up your rooms but clean the air and connect to your WiFi too, so that you can turn them on and off wherever you are.

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Indoor air pollutants are having a huge impact on human health in Africa, Asia and Latin America. While their impact is smaller in Europe, still one per cent of premature deaths are attributed to them in European homes.

The ‘puripot airLamp’ from Dadam Micro Inc can help with this as it also works as an air purifier. The lamp’s filter is made from an inorganic material-based fibre made by coating a polyester non-woven fibre with a titanium dioxide (TiO2) photocatalyst. TiO2 is a widely-used photocatalyst in many environmental and energy applications as it has very efficient photoactivity and high stability, while being low cost and safe for the environment and humans. The filter is combined with a visible light-based titanium dioxide photocatalyst technology and together they remove harmful VOCs viruses, bacteria and fine dust from the air.

They can remove both particulate and gaseous pollutants in the air such as harmful organic gases, tobacco odour, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, urine and many other hydrocarbon molecules, while also providing energy-efficient lighting.

Another energy efficient light innovation is the Yeelight Smart LED Bulb. Available in an astonishing 16 million colours, it’s dimmable and can connect to home WiFi hubs. Controllable through Apple HomeKit, and IFTTT, as well as with Alexa, Google, and Siri voice commands it also comes with a mobile app that provides scheduling and timer options.

Its E26 base means it will fit any standard lamp socket. And for those who like to have different lighting effects, the app give you the option to adapt the appearance with pre-set options such as Sunrise, which gives a reddish glow; Movie – a blue effect; Romance takes it through a gradual shift from dark blue to red; the self-explanatory Candle Flicker; and the dim and warm Night Mode.

Its biggest sustainability credential though is that it has an expected lifespan of 22 years, if it’s used for three hours a day.

The final sustainability innovation for the home that we’re looking at is the August WiFi Smart Lock which can make your home safer without you having to replace your existing keys. It’s an upgrade to the traditional deadbolt that enables the door to be locked or unlocked remotely using the August mobile app (for Android and iOS) or with the Apple HomeKit app.

The door can also be locked and unlocked using Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice commands, plus additional IFTTT applets enable it to interact with numerous third-party smart devices. The lock integrates with home automation and security platforms from Honeywell, Logitech, SimpliSafe, and Samsung.

It can be programmed to automatically lock the door after you leave and unlock it when you approach. Or you can open the door with your original key, your smartphone or Apple watch, or a keypad. You can grant guest access too so that you can let people into your home when you’re not there, if the need arises.

These latest sustainability innovations for the home can help make sure that homes of the future are safer, cleaner, less polluted, more energy and water efficient, cooler, and releasing a significantly lower amount of greenhouse gases on a day-to-day basis. Plus, they can ensure that fewer primary resources are used making multiple kitchen gadgets, that less food gets thrown away, and that lightbulbs hardly ever need to be replaced.

Smarter homes do indeed deliver all kinds of sustainability benefits but it has to be mentioned that it all relies on the internet. While there are without a doubt many environmental pluses, smart homes come with cyber security concerns that have to be taken into consideration. Additionally, there’s the environmental impact of the data centres that these smart innovations keep their information in.

When investing in a sustainability innovation for your home, check out its security credentials to ensure that it’s as safe as possible and make sure that you only use it to create and store the data that you really need.

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