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Planning for the home of tomorrow

Technology is changing the way we live. Here's how homeowners can prepare for future advances in technology.

From electric cars that feed back into the grid to smart kitchens that whip up dinner before we get home, technology is changing the way we live.

With many of these technological advancements, you simply plug them in or retrofit them to existing home hardware, and then control them via your smartphone. But some require a little more pre-planning.

So, if you’re renovating, making home improvements or building, here’s how you can prepare your home for future technological advances.

Get wired for the influx of smart gadgets

Smart home automation is fast becoming the norm. We can control our home’s temperature, lighting, window treatments and security with a press of a button.

An easy, affordable way to start on your smart home journey is with smart plugs, which you can switch on or off using an app on your phone or a voice command to Google Home or Amazon Echo. For example, you can turn on a lamp when you’re not home to make it look like you’re there. Or, you can triple-check that you switched the iron off by checking the app.

To take things to the next level, you must either pre-wire high-quality cables in a new build or retrofit smart wiring if you’re updating your current home. Pre-wiring means that even if you don’t use whole-house automation systems, whatever features you use can be put into one single interface or control panel. This makes it much easier to coordinate, manage and automate all your heating, lighting and security options.

With pre-wiring, you have the capacity to add additional systems at a later stage and you can easily run conduits to the areas in your house where you may want to access video, in-wall or in-ceiling speakers and data in the future.

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In the kitchen, smart devices can be retrofitted to existing appliances, such as smart stove knobs for fire prevention, or a camera system attached to a fridge that reorders food and controls other smart home devices via a front-of-fridge control. Or, you could start planning your installation of a robotic chef, like the Samsung Bot Chef, to do all your chopping, whisking, pouring and cleaning.

Your car could power your home

Within the next 20 years, around half of Australian cars will likely be electric. Most electric vehicles (EVs) come with a charger you can mount in your garage using a standard electrical power point, or you can get a dedicated home charging port installed for faster charging. When planning the garage layout, factor in how you’ll charge your car and where the charging port should be.

To help reduce your energy bill, we have an energy plan for EV drivers with bonus credits to help reduce your energy costs. Some newer EVs have bi-directional charging capabilities, too – which means you can use the car’s leftover capacity to power your home or export it back to the grid. Handy, right?

More space for solar home batteries

This leads us to solar home batteries. They are changing the game for homeowners with solar panels – which continue to be installed on rooftops across Australia rapidly. By 2025, CSIRO and AEMO estimate 150,000 residential battery systems will be installed, powering about 800 MW of capacity.

But how does a solar home battery work? When connected to your solar set-up, it stores unused energy from your solar panels to use at night-time, or on a cloudy day. Using less energy from the grid also makes it a cost-effective way to power your home.

When preparing your home for battery storage, it’s good to know the pros and cons of the different batteries available and to check their installation requirements.

Some battery storage systems need to be installed outside, others need to be mounted inside to help maintain their temperature and others perform best when they are floor-standing. When installing your battery in the garage, don’t forget to consider ventilation.

Become part of a bigger energy picture

The future of solar and home batteries goes beyond the four walls of your home. Virtual power plants (VPPs) – like the one we’ve created in Adelaide – enable everyday Australians to join together to support each other’s energy needs. These networks of connected solar batteries make the grid more reliable and help make energy more affordable.

VPPs put the power of orchestration to work. Orchestration is a way of topping up supply during peak demand periods – like when everyone arrives home from work and switches on the aircon in summer – with the extra energy homeowners have captured during the day.

You can also be involved in a program that helps to relieve pressure on the electricity grid when demand is high. Through our Peak Energy Rewards program, we send you an SMS to signal peak demand on the grid and then you’re invited to reduce your home’s energy use voluntarily. Not only does this help to reduce pressure on the grid, but you also get rewarded for participating.

Programs like VPP and Peak Energy Rewards point to a future where your home can play a much smarter role in contributing to more sustainable energy usage.

Creating space for smart technology

Many of the new technologies appearing in our homes are smaller and lighter than ever. Computers are no longer the bulky boxes they once were; bookshelves and cupboards of DVDs have been replaced with Kindles and Netflix. Yet other technologies – like televisions and battery storage units – are taking up more space.

It’s not always easy to imagine what the next technological advancement will look like, but with a little planning it’s possible to soften the impact technology may have on our home renovations or building.

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