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Home Control Assistant Newsletter for May 22 2022

Have you read the Important Announcement posted on August 1, 2021? If you haven't you need to.
The power to save
A few weeks back I came across this article on how there are devices in a home that typically draw power when you think they don’t.

https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/if-you-want-to-save-money-and-electricity-unplug-these-home-appliances/ 

As the article says, this is due to most modern electronics, especially those with a remote, having at least some parts of their circuitry powered on. The idea of the article was to make sure they are off and in doing so save on energy and your monthly electric bill. While I think the article is technically correct, with appliances that meet the “Energy Star” standard they really don’t draw much power when in standby. I put a meter on my DirecTV box at one point and while I can’t remember what the draw was, it really wasn’t much. Putting a controllable outlet in each location would be possible, but I can’t see that the payback will ever be positive – cost of the controllable outlet vs the cost of the energy saved.

But don’t dismiss the idea completely. I have a friend that has an “electrical closet” for all their various A/V equipment. They keep the door ajar because the closet gets too hot. That heat comes from all the power used by the equipment. If I was living there I would install a controllable outlet and shut that all down when I was away for a few days. Doing that power-down each time away is probably a bad idea because of the restart time. As an aside, someday it would be fun to know why a DirecTV receiver takes 5 to 10 minutes to restart! But if I was going on vacation, or even away for the weekend, shutting that all down would not be a poor idea.

Since I have replaced many of my ceiling lighting with either Hue lights or non-color changing LED bulbs, I already have made a large power saving. Even with those changes, shutting lights off that get inadvertently left on is an easy savings. Having HCA do a “sweep” of all lights at 2am, plus using auto-off settings saves a bit more.

One more point about auto-off. Did you know that HCA keeps statistics that might be helpful in setting the auto-off time? Look on the “Statistics” tab of a device properties. Here are my own home kitchen lights for last Monday.




With such a variation, probably an auto-off wouldn’t be too useful. I could set it for 15 minutes and use the “dim 1 minute before off” option so that I could hold them on for those times when I’m doing a baking binge. But maybe that would be too annoying.

Here is another room. Huge difference between events. Clearly the nearly 2-hour event is a light left on when it need not be. An auto off would be helpful here.




Another area to look at is controllable thermostats. That can have a big impact if you change the setpoint based upon the outside temperature. Setting a higher setpoint for cooling when it is crazy hot outside could save much. Same with going lower when exceptionally cold outside. But, as I have written about in the past, new thermosets have so much smarts built-in that letting them do their work without manual or HCA intervention probably is best. I have both Ecobee and Nest thermostats and they work very well.

A few months back I replaced the bulbs in my bath “vanity lights” (those round bulbs typically in a bar above a sink) with LEDs. Recently I bought LED 3-way bulbs for some lamps. I really didn’t know that the quality of LEDs in those situations have improved so much over the last years. They dim without flickering and are silent.  It’s not energy savings by automation, but it counts too.
If you are using HCA with UPB devices and also use Google Assistant or Alexa for voice control of them, please drop me a note as there are some developments you may be interested in.
If you are using a version of HCA prior to version 17, you may have questions about the wisdom of upgrading to version 17 given the future of HCA. Here is something to consider:

The support policy for older HCA versions has been changed
 as I can no longer devote time to past version users. Support will only be available for HCA 17 users.

If you are on version 16 or earlier and want to continue using the cloud features and want to be assured that if you have a question that it gets answered, it is indeed time to upgrade.

HCA is fully operational for several more years so the update cost, spread out over that time, is very little. Knowing support is available when you need it is worth it.
Upgrade to HCA 17
Anyone who is using Hubitat with HCA – not SmartThings – please drop me a note as I would like to add you to a discussion list for those users. I have some Hubitat ideas that I would like to “kick around” and it would help to have a group of users who have experience with Hubitat. Please just send a note to the regular support address saying you would like to be added to that discussion list.
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