The homeowner’s guide to the gadgetry

The smartest homes of the future will mitigate and adapt to climate change

A truly smart home both mitigates and adapts to climate change. These Waterloo alumni share helpful tips and technologies that can easily transform your house into the house of the future, today.

Mitigation

Smart Energy Technology

bronwyn“Many of the best energy saving technologies and home upgrades actually make our lives more comfortable, convenient and efficient. We just need to make some easy lifestyle changes to create a culture of energy savings.” — Bronwyn Lazowski (BES ’14), research fellow at the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy.

Her tips for making a smart home that mitigates:

  • Communication hub — Developed at Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, WiTAG uses radio frequency to power battery-free sensors, turning your existing WiFi network into a smart hub managing smart devices to use energy efficiently.
  • Lighting — Leaving lights on by mistake, or family battles over brightness, drain our electricity grid. Smartphone-controlled bulbs let everyone customize brightness and warmth.
  • Appliances — Load monitors understand how appliances such as gaming consoles, hairdryers and washing machines consume energy. A smart dishwasher should automatically detect when energy is most abundant. Load it in the evening and it will run when costs are low (usually 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and on weekends).
  • Batteries — Smart batteries store energy during off-peak periods to be used for peak times.
  • Smart Home Design — Smarter home design can be as straightforward as great insulation, good ventilation and well-placed windows for passive heating and cooling. Green roofs and shade from trees make a big difference. Choose higher-density neighbourhoods that allow for active commuting to places of work and play.

Smart Renewable Energy

Matthew Peloso (BSc ’04), founder of Sun Electric, connects solar panels to one another through an electrical network, allowing users to trade power captured from sunlight. Households can save close to 15 per cent on their electricity and reduce their carbon footprint.

Adaptation

Smart Home Updates

natalia“The costs of extreme weather and natural catastrophes in Canada have escalated to historical highs. Flooding especially leads to increased insurance premiums, a growing risk of mortgage arrears, lawsuits and mental stress to those impacted.” —Natalia Moudrak (BA ’10, MA ’12), director of climate resilience at Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation.

Her tips for making a smart home that adapts:

  • Install backwater valves to limit water from backing up through the sewer system.
  • Test sump pumps to make sure they work and have a back-up power source.
  • Clean leaves from eavestroughs and extend downspouts away from the foundation walls.
  • Place plastic covers over basement window wells, and make basement windows watertight.
  • Store valuables and electronics in watertight containers.
  • Clean out catch basins and culverts, removing leaves and debris so that water can drain.
  • Re-grade the land around homes to carry water away from foundation walls, onto the street.

Inside a smart home

Smart Water

George Tsintzouras (BSc ’99), Ruth Casselman (BSc ’02) and Kevin Wright (BASc ’96), co-founded Alert Labs to protect property and reduce utility costs with a water flow sensor and water leak detector called Flowie. Installing in seconds and providing real-time water use data and analytics, Flowie monitors and sends alerts for power outages, temperature, humidity, pipe freezing, leaks and unusual patterns in water usage.

Smart Wind

Mike Gibbons (BASc ’08), is a wind climate specialist and associate at specialty consulting engineering firm RWDI. He stresses that built and natural environments are vulnerable to wind damage from extreme weather. In most parts of Canada, gusts up to 100km/h can damage trees and old or improperly installed shingles. With gusts up to 115-120km/h, your home siding might start to fail. When wind speeds reach 130-140km/h, we expect to see widespread power outages in addition to building damage and downed trees. To reduce the potential for damage, trim tree branches and remove or secure loose outdoor furniture. Also, remove diseased trees and update roofing, siding, garage doors and windows.