Yes, we all know how to get a weather report by asking Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for the information … or checking an app … or programming a home-automation system to present the Web-based data on a touchscreen. Yawn.
We can even install a weather station at the premises to glean super-local data on temperature, humidity, wind speed, barometric pressure, rain fall, cloudiness, pollen count, and all sorts of other nerdy conditions. Still a yawner.
Where it gets interesting is when all that data is put to good use through smart-home integration. Here are some practical weather-related applications to pitch to clients. The tricks might be familiar to dealers, but foreign to typical consumers.
Starting with one of the most basic weather-related tenets: Don't water the lawn if it's already wet … or soon to be. Fortunately, most irrigation controllers have a simple input for a rain sensor — typically a contact closure for connecting directly to a rain sensor, or a relay controllable by a home-automation processor. When your automation system knows it's raining, or has rained, it can simply trigger the relay to keep the irrigation system from running.
Better yet, integrate the automation system with a local weather station or an Internet service to shunt the irrigation system when rain is on the way.
Motorized Window Actuators
Opening a window is the most energy-efficient way to cool your home. To cool my own home (I don't have air conditioning) I use a whole-house fan that moves hot air out of the second floor, and pulls cooler outside air into the house through open windows.
The downside of this strategy is that it requires users to leave one or more windows open. If a thunderstorm strikes when the windows are open and no one's around, the rain could flood the home. To solve this problem a motorized window actuator can be installed to open/close the window at the command of a home-control system. When the automation system detects rain, it can close any open windows before the downpour hits.
I had a customer with a large pool house in their backyard. The building included a full outdoor kitchen, an outdoor dining area, and a full entertainment system.
To bring the outdoors in, two, adjacent walls of the building were covered with a sliding door system that could completely open these walls to the outside. However, to keep insects at bay there were motorized screens to seal the space between walls. These large screens were very expensive and could easily be damaged by flying debris in a storm.
To protect the screens from damage, the automation system would monitor the wind speed, measured from a Davis weather station on the roof of the customer's home. Whenever the wind exceeded 15 mph, the automation system triggered the motorized screens to retract, protecting them from any damage.
Forecasting Energy Savings
During the spring and fall seasons, it is natural for a home to require heat in the evening as the sun sets. The home might remain uncomfortably cold in morning, prompting residents to keep the heat going throughout the day. But warm outdoor temperatures and a bright sun could heat the property pretty quickly, even as the heater still runs in the home, forcing residents to open windows for temporary relief.
Rather than waste energy heating the home when the sun is on the rise … check the weather report. In my own home I integrate weather data with an automation system. If the forecast calls for warm temperatures, the automation system sets back the termostat to energy-saving levels, allowing the sun to heat the house naturally.
One thing Northerners and Midwesters know all too well: If it gets too cold for a long period of time, pipes can freeze and wreck the home. Freeze sensors installed inside the home won't necessarily do the trick, as severe temperatures can freeze the pipes from the outside. Instead, have the automation system respond to outdoor weather data from an Internet service or home weather station, and crank up the heat when temperatures remain too cold for too long.
When it Rains Inside
Jay Basen has been a home automation hobbyist for over 25 years and has worked professionally in the industry for 12 years. With a master's degree in engineering, Jay has been writing software professionally for almost 40 years.