Tips From The Top

  • Jackson Hole AV blog, Tips from the Top

    Smarthome, Lower voltage: Part 2

    In part one, we looked at how home voltage might be poised to take a more efficient—and safer—downturn, thanks to new smarthome technologies like the Tesla Powerwall. This isn’t the first time that the low voltage home has been considered, however.

    In the 1980s, the National Research Center of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and several industry partners launched the Smart House project. This model Smart House was wired with a single multiconductor cable that contained all the wires necessary for electric and communications needs. Safety was the main goal: outlets using these multiconductor-connected wires only received power when something was plugged in, eliminating the very real worry of someone (a child, perhaps, or someone trying to unscrew an electric socket plate) getting a dangerous shock. Connected sensors could also automatically switch off power when any abnormalities, such as smoke or water, were detected.


    Also, unlike the traditional 240/120 system, this setup created sockets that could provide power at many different voltages, which removed the need for power-sucking technology within various appliances to decrease the standard 110 voltage that typically is provided in a home electrical socket. The system would be able to receive either AC or DC power, too, allowing it to use devices like the Tesla Powerwall.


    Using less power meant spending less money, so all of these ideas, once working in the Smart Home, promised to provide a new, safer and less pricey model of home life.


    But here’s where it failed: no one was ready for it. Even though the Smart Home worked, and the team was able to convince industry partners to convince prototypes of new appliances and technologies to work with it, the general public wasn’t prepared for the total change this new kind of home would require, mostly because a 100 percent change means all-new building and buying. The idea had great potential, but no one could afford to make such a drastic and risky switch. Keep in mind, this was the 1980s, and smarthomes were an incredible idea to most people and just in the beginning of development.


    Today, though, things are different. Low voltage appliances are much more readily available, for one thing, and technologies such as the Tesla Powerwall make switching to DC power more realistic. This makes storing energy from the traditional power grid, or making use of solar/wind power generation, a true reality for the average homeowner for the first time. Solar is also more affordable than ever to implement, with residential solar costs dropping 45 percent since 2010. The growth in solar power demonstrates this: in 2014, solar power in the U.S. grew by 34 percent, and today, enough solar power is being generated to power more than 4.6 average American homes. 

    All the pieces are in place, then, for a home voltage revolution, one that could provide you with a safer, less expensive home. Want to know more about the possibilities for your home? Give Jackson Hole AV a call. We’d love to explore the new low voltage world with you!