Save energy, time, and money without breaking a sweat…

My name is Tom Lawson. I’m a semi-retired software engineer with a passion for home automation and saving energy.

I’ve developed a variety of energy saving techniques implemented on the Samsung SmartThings Hub–such as anticipating heating or cooling needs based on data from Weather Underground and meeting those needs by strategically controlling whole house fans and windows.  I also have integrated solutions for saving energy with attic fans, ceiling fans, window coverings, garage fans, and basement fans.

What sets my applications apart from other energy saving techniques is that  you actually gain comfort while saving energy. A typical house during a heat wave will spend most of the day at or near the cooling set point, e.g. 78 degree F. But with my application, Climate Control Guru, night venting allows your house to get as low as your heating set point, e.g. 68 degrees F, and then spend most of the day somewhere in the middle. Friends always comment that my house is always so cool during the summer. They are always surprised when I tell them that I rarely ever have to run my air conditioner.

I live in Northern California where daily temperature swings are relatively high, but even in fairly humid climates where temperature swings are smaller, similar results can be achieved by adding an inside humidity sensor  to the mix.

I take saving energy very seriously. My house has LED lighting, on-demand water heaters, and solar panels. I use my own applications to control a whole house fan, ceiling fan, attic fan, a garage fan, skylight, and thermostat. These Lawson Automation applications are a logical extension of what I consider to be an important part of saving money and helping to protect the earth.

Read more about my applications in the products section or more about me on LinkedIn. Read more about the SmartThings Hub here.  Read about  what lead me to choose this hub. You can download my applications from github at https://github.com/lawsonautomation/. You can contribute to my development effort here at PayPal.

All the Best!

Tom Lawson

How does Day and Night Venting Work?

I’m a big fan of cooling my house in the evening with the whole house fan. The rush of cool night air can make sleeping so much more comfortable at a cost 10 to 20 times cheaper than AC.

Conversely, there are times I’ve come home to a chilly house and thought to myself, It’s warmer outside than inside! I might even open up the windows to take advantage of this if I weren’t so lazy.

This is why I have been working for years to automate these processes. After developing such a system, I used temperature sensors to record inside and outside temperatures with using this system. The results are shown below in graph form.

Baseline, No Heating or Cooling

This graph shows a time when no heating or cool of any kind was applied. All systems were off.

Note the even sine wave of the inside temperature and that the daily range falls between 69 and 74 degrees F. Inside average and outside average are roughly the same.

Cooling with a Whole House Fan

This graph shows cooling using only night venting. No AC was used.

Note the rapid drop in slop of the inside temperature line as cool outside air is introduced. Even though outside average temperatures hover around 80 degrees F, the inside average remains around 74 Degrees F, roughly 5 degrees lower.

Heating with a Whole House Fan

This graphic shows heating using only ventilation. No heater was used.

Note the steep incline of the inside temperature when warm outside air is introduced. Average inside temperature was maintained around 5 degrees F above outside average.

The Big Picture

By knowing when and how much to heat an cool via ventilation, significant energy savings can be achieved during those times when daily outside temperature fluctuations intersect with the inside target range.  A 2004 California Energy Commission report concluded that a typical 2000 sq ft California home could save $450 a year using a ventilation controller though cooling savings alone.

Why I Chose the SmartThings Hub

I like that the SmartThings Hub supports all of the right home automation protocols–Z-Wave, Zigbee, and Ethernet. I like that there’s a simulator, that development is done in Groovy (a cool new language based on Java), and most everything is open source. Other outstanding features include mode changes that allow my apps to act differently depending on whether you are home, away, or asleep; compatibility with most home automation products; secure remote access via the cloud; an integrated mobile user interface; and easy access to third party data such as Weather Underground. The cost is moderate (around $80), but you really don’t want to go cheap on something you plan to have for many years and will use everyday.

There are a lot players in this market and others have their merits. However, considering all factors that matter to me, SmartThings is the clear winner. I do have complaints–the simulators does support all devices types, the development environment has some oddities that are hard to remember, and there’s no app store–but otherwise I’m happy.

You can read more about the SmartThings Hub and all of the device with which it is compatible here.