A New Day for Modern Living
Connectivity Is the Key
If you haven’t kept a close eye on the Smart Home progress made in developing and improving the entire range of household appliances we take for granted, get ready for a big surprise.
Nearly all the improvements and new product introductions taking place now promise some form of energy efficiency, conservation, user convenience, or comfort, based on the low cost of advanced computer technology in the form of smart phones, cheap chips, the spread of wi-fi, and ubiquitous Bluetooth connectivity.
These days consumers expect, if not demand, some type of phone app that lets them keep in touch with their home or office.
These days consumers expect, if not demand, some type of phone app that lets them keep in touch with their home or office. Refrigerators that inventory commonly shopped for groceries, ovens that can be controlled from afar, washing machines that sense the dirt level of the clothes being washed, and of course home security including doorbell cameras and motion detectors, all are marketed with a message that stresses how easy it is to stay up-to-date even when you’re miles away.
From monitoring usage stats to remotely controlling HVAC functions, technology is at the heart of even our most mundane appliances. Today, we can check on the health of an appliance and its operational status with a couple of swipes and touches on our phones or by asking a question of our smart system from Google, Amazon, and others. It’s a new day for modern living, but that doesn’t come without a cost. Every time a new connection is established, another chunk of privacy is sacrificed, and the potential risk from hacking grows along with it.
Tankless Hot Water Saves Big On Energy Expense
Tankless water heaters have been around for a number of years, primarily in parts of the country well served by gas. But recent improvements in materials, design, and construction have now put tankless hot water on the front burner of most desired major appliances thanks to their significant savings in energy costs and major improvements in electric versions.
While costs for traditional hot water heaters have remained pretty much the same, they’ve just about reached their maximum in terms of effeciency. Meanwhile, tankless hot water, with its low profile installation and lower operating cost, is making significant inroads into the traditional market formerly held by conventional tank water heaters.
As tempting as it may sound to run out and replace your existing hot water tank, there are a few things to consider before buying. First, depending on the model chosen, it may take years before you can recoup the cost of replacement based on energy savings. But if your major concern is your green footprint, replacing an inefficient water heater with a much more energy aware device makes sense.
Also make sure the energy source lines up with the goals of going tankless. There are models for both gas and electric, but unless you’re installing an undersink on demand system in, say, the kitchen, gas is by far he recommended option for upgrading or new construction.
Another consideration is that tankless requires regular servicing that, if neglected, significantly reduces the life of the appliance. Again, it’s a cost to be factored in, and should be considered in the same way as checking the tire pressure on your car.
Range Hoods That Work Well, Look Great
Once, range hoods ran the gamut of operational effectiveness from bad to not so bad. Early models consisted mainly of a low power fan wrapped in ducting that circulated greasy warm air around the kitchen. Not so today.
For home chefs, the need for an efficient range hood is an integral part of overall kitchen design and layout, and the range of styles available, based on code specified non-flammable materials, includes familiar stainless as well as steel and copper alternatives.
Today’s choices include designs and options that once were available only to architecturally spec’d commercial kitchens. And the popularity of island counters has encouraged develpment of overhead models that are equal parts appearance and function.
Matching Style to Task
If possible, a roof or attic mounted fan greatly decreases background kitchen noise, which can be a significant factor in the overall cooking experience.
Built-in recirculating models are often included with package deals on ranges and overhead microwave, and while they may do an ok job of controlling odor, they can’t do anything with the grease and steam given off by frying and boiling other than exhaust it back in your face while you stand over the burners.
Picking out the right model and configuration begins with calculating the cooking power of your range for the correct CFM fan speed needed. The BTUs generated determine the size of the exhaust fan needed to control the work environment. (Total the BTU output of your cooktop or range and divide it by 100 for the correct CFM.)
One tip for better performance is to start the fan five or 10 minutes before you begin cooking, then let it run for about the same amount of time after you finish. This allows the fan to do its job of fully exhausting the air in the immediate area.
Smart Plumbing Appliances
From whole house water monitoring to Smart Device kitchen faucets, the impact of home tech on plumbing and appliances continues to revolutionize the industry. Smart toilets (see TOTO Neorest) seem to garner the most attention, but the incorporation of voice and app control into every type of device on the plumbing spectrum shows no sign of slowing.
KBB, the blog of the Kitchen Bath Industry Show, highlighted two products that are fully vested in Smart Technology: Moen’s whole house monitoring device, and Delta’s Alexa controlled faucet that will, in response to your request for a specific amount of water, measure out exactly two (or whatever quantity you need) cups, shutting off automatically when finished.
Moen’s FLO main line inline flow sensor can determine erratic use patterns, and is also able to shut off the water either by command or automatically, preventing what might otherwise be catastrophic damage from flooding.
Whether it’s for convenience, efficiency, need, or peace of mind, the range of options available to homeowners for controlling their appliances will continue to expand, eventually resulting in a home that truly reflects the personality of the owners.