By Crystal Watts | Posted January 15, 2021

As we all begin to see the harmful effects polluting our environment has caused over the years, we are learning that together we need to make a change. When we all do our small part to reduce our carbon footprint, we can help make the planet a better place.
Living a sustainable lifestyle requires a great deal of dedication and awareness. When you have this mindset, it’s amazing how the simple lifestyle changes you make can have a greater impact. Examining how you currently live and finding solutions to reduce your energy consumption and waste production is a helpful place to start. Once you have identified key areas that you can improve upon, it’s time to make the change.
With the use of available resources and technology, specifically smart home technology, you may find surprising ways that these products can help simplify this process. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can use smart home technology to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Understanding Smart Home Technology
It’s important to first understand what smart home technology is before you purchase any device or system. Smart home technology incorporates a range of products that can be used to help homeowners simplify their everyday lives and often use advanced technology to automate and replicate basic human tasks. With a simple set-up and connection to a home’s internet system, they can be up and running quickly.
Since the introduction of smart home devices, their popularity and use has increased significantly. It’s estimated that 69% of homes already own at least one smart device. As new technology continues to emerge, we’ll be introduced to new ways of incorporating these systems into our everyday lives.
Affording Smart Home Technology
While smart home systems vary greatly in capabilities and pricing, there are many affordable devices and financing options available to you. Whether you choose to start with one simple device or make a full smart house overhaul, you’ll be able to pick ones that are right for you, your home, and your budget. For smaller projects or for purchasing your first device, consider setting money aside each week into a savings account that you can then access when you’re ready to buy. For larger expenditures, see if you qualify for any discounts or loans. You could also opt for more creative financing options. For example, you could borrow against your home’s equity or see if there are any monthly expenses that you can eliminate.
Another factor to consider is the potential savings you will accumulate on your energy bills over the year by incorporating smart home technology in your home. Over time these savings could be significant enough to cover some or all of your initial investment.
Choosing The Right Devices for Sustainability
Now that you have an understanding of what smart home technology is and what the costs are, you may be wondering which devices will be worth the investment in a more sustainable lifestyle. Thankfully there are a variety of options available, many of which are accessible at local stores or through the internet.
Smart Thermostats
Let’s start with smart thermostats. These devices, though relatively simplistic in nature, can yield one of the greatest benefits for your wallet and the environment. Smart thermostats help control the heating and cooling that your home needs. They work similarly to a regular thermostat but offer greater control and remote access. With the integration of a mobile application, you can turn the heat or air conditioning off when you are not home and some even allow you to see how much energy you have been using. This is also great if you have family members who forget to adjust it when leaving or if you want to ramp up the temperature while you’re on your way home.
Smart Lighting
If you are looking for a way to make a low-cost impact today, the simple change from regular incandescent light bulbs to smart and efficient LED bulbs can help you reduce your energy consumption. LED light bulbs are better for the planet as they use less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs, thus reducing your waste production over time. With smart lights, such as those from Control4, you can go one step further. Using a mobile device to control the lighting in your home ensures you’ll never again forget to turn the lights off when leaving a room. And, with a single tap, you can even turn off every light in the house at once.
Smart Plugs
Often used in conjunction with smart lights, smart plugs can make a great addition to your home’s smart set-up. Smart plugs can be set to a schedule or can use a voice command to turn on or off anything that may be plugged into them. With these plugs set to a timer, you can watch TV while falling asleep, run a coffee maker in the morning, or shut the hair straightener off without worrying about wasting electricity or fire risks. Not only do devices like this help simplify your life, they also keep you in line with your sustainable lifestyle goals.
Smart Appliances
When purchasing a new appliance for your home, whether it’s a new fridge or a new dishwasher, consider opting for an eco-friendly option. Many appliances are now being integrated with smart capabilities that can help your appliances run more efficiently. They also have many useful features like keeping an inventory stock, alerting you when a door is open, and connection with mobile devices. When purchasing a smart appliance be sure to look for options that are certified with an official energy efficiency label.
Smart Water Systems
Water is one of the most important natural resources that exists, yet American households waste nearly 1 trillion gallons of water each year. By incorporating a smart water system into your home, you’ll be able to increase your water efficiency. These devices have many capabilities such as monitoring and reducing use, but they can also detect emergencies. Leaky pipes can lead to much bigger issues down the road such as pipe bursts, or increased moisture in the home which could cause mold to grow. Preserving water is important and with a system like this, the task of using water efficiently becomes more simplified.
As we continue to evolve as a society and developers create more advanced technologies, we’re sure to be introduced to even more smart home systems. Using these systems to your advantage is not only beneficial to you as a homeowner but can also help save our environment. Together we can make a difference one household at a time.

Control4 Launches Three Home Automation Controllers with Hi-Res Audio, Starting at $600

Control4 Launches Three Home Automation Controllers with Hi-Res Audio, Starting at $600

Control4 announces EA Series of smart-home controllers with more powerful processors, high-resolution audio (HRA), built-in Ethernet switches, more I/Os; goes another year without an IoT solution for DIYs.

Control4 Launches Three Home Automation Controllers with Hi-Res Audio, Starting at $600

Control4 EA Series home automation controllers include EA-1, EA-3 and EA-5 with hi-resolution audio. Products are available today, starting at $600 for the EA-1 controller and handheld remote control.

Julie Jacobson · January 27, 2016

Control4 (Nasdaq: CTRL) has spent the last few years focusing on its core business of providing reliable ZigBee- and Wi-Fi-enabled home automation and multiroom A/V systems for the mid-market via professional integrators. The company shies away from headline-making bells and whistles, and so far has dismissed the DIY IoT market.

Today’s big announcement of three new EA Series home controllers stays the course, from the entry level ($600 MSRP) and up ($2,000). Speed and reliability is the mantra, says CEO Martin Plaehn, who wants the company to be known as an infrastructure provider rather than a device manufacturer.

Everyone seems to like the strategy – dealers and consumers at least – but not so much the stockholders, who seem to be getting bored with the slow and steady growth of the company.

On my recent visit to Control4 headquarters in Salt Lake City, Plaehn held up a very thick report from one analyst that he told me was packed with positive reviews from dealers.

“Investors are scratching their heads,” Plaehn says. “All they hear is goodness” (which is what the author hears as well.)

So you can imagine that CTRL stock probably won’t skyrocket on the news that three new controllers now have integrated power supplies, even though you can barely contain Kordon Vaughn, senior director of controllers, when he gushes, “This is a really critical component of the system!”

Previous controllers relied on external power supplies, Vaughn explains: “The problem with off-the-shelf power supplies is that vendors can make a change and you may never know. Now we can specify high-quality power supplies. … It needs to be something you don’t leave to chance.”

While a power supply may seem a little trivial in the scheme of things, it really is emblematic of Control4’s commitment to quality.

These days, the controllers “just don’t break,” says Paul Williams, VP of solutions for Control4. “It’s not like a phone where you replace it every couple years. You’re not going to do a wholesale upgrade of your home automation system every couple of years. So we spent a lot of time making sure the products are reliable.”

High-Resolution Audio for All

There are indeed some swell new features of the new EA Series controllers. I wouldn’t call them bells and whistles exactly, but they do make the products relevant and powerful.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that all three new controllers, the EA-1, EA-3 and EA-5 (specs on next page), offer high-resolution audio (HRA) as standard.

The emphasis is on entertainment this go-around, as Control4 installations in the U.S. are mostly driven by entertainment, according to Williams.

“Customers looking into a media-room experience or a home-theater experience are lured into home automation,” he says. “So we made sure to allow for those things to be enhanced” with the new models.

Vaughn says that making HRA standard in Control4 controllers eliminates a potential “failure point” in a multiroom audio ecosystem. It also ensures that “High-Res Audio is synonymous with Control4.”

That goes for the one-room EA-1 as well as the three- and five-zone EA-3 and EA-5, respectively.

Vaughn says Control4 focused heavily on the signal-to-noise ratio for its new 24-bit audio platform to make sure “there really isn’t a need to go out and buy a separate box.”

Performance Improvements

A funny thing happened on the way to a low-noise circuit for high-res audio: Control4 begin seeing better performance from its ZigBee radio as well, according to Vaughn.

Even so, Control4 added external Wi-Fi and ZigBee radio antennas to all of its new controllers.

“This allows for much more intelligent placement of the controller to ensure good connectivity away from interference when needed,” says Joe Whitaker, a long-time Control4 dealer and contributor to CE Pro.

On top of wireless improvements, Control4’s new controllers are more powerful than their predecessors. The EA-3, for example, is five times faster than the nearly-comparable HC250, according to the company.

A platform switch from Flash to Android is responsible for much of that speediness, just as when the move to Android made Control4’s new touchscreens “blazingly fast.”

The TV on-screen display (OSD) renders lickity-split with the new Android controllers, according to Control4 and its beta testers.

Here is an excerpt from Whitaker’s short list of exciting things about the new Control4 hardware:


Ethernet Switches and Other I/Os

When controllers are located near a TV, rather than a central rack, the space can get a little tight, especially considering the other little black boxes that may share the shelf. Control4 helps with built-in Ethernet switches on its PoE-powered EA-3 (one extra gigabit port) and EA-5 (four extra ports, all gigabit).

“The addition of an extra Ethernet port on the E3, and four ports on the E5, is a bigger deal than it may seem,” Whitaker says. “It’s similar to what Sonos has done on the Connect and Connect Amp, and what Sony has done with select receivers. These extra ports allow for bonus connectivity in TV locations, where you might normally use an extra switch.”

Each controller boasts a bank of I/O including ports that can be used for IR or RS-232 control. Here, Control4 did another really nice thing for integrators. Some TVs, especially LG and Samsung, have 3.5-inch jacks for serial communications, but they reverse the wires from what is “normal.” In the past, Control4 dealers had to create their own crossover cables in the field by splicing, crossing and reattaching them.

Control4 now allows dealers to make “virtual crossover” cables through software. Simply check the box that indicates “crossover” and Control4 does the rest.

“We could have made physical crossover cables for dealers,” Vaughn notes, “but then they’d have to carry them around.”

There you go – another thing that won’t move CTRL stock, but makes dealers super-happy.

OS 2.81

The virtual crossover cable is just one handy feature in Control4’s new OS 2.81 software. Other improvements affect consumers more directly.

For example, Control4’s new ShairBridge service — embedded AirPlay with Control4 special sauce — is available on all EA controllers. When it debuted at CEDIA 2015 last October, it worked only with the top-of-the-line HC800 controller.

Control4 demonstrated the feature at CEDIA, where TIDAL HRA music service was streaming via the HC800 to headset stations in the booth. Dealers could access tunes from the company’s new grid-style interface, with album covers shown in full HD glory – all part of the OS 2.8 upgrade.

Control4 has been slowly overhauling its historically bland UIs and is scrapping the old “circle of power” home-page look for a horizontal UI.

More fundamentally, Control4 is working to expose more useful data where consumers want to see it. The music/video interface was the first example of that effort. Now with 2.81, Control4 allows shortcuts to such services as Netflix, allowing one-click access from a touchscreen or mobile device.

“You don’t have to go to Roku first and drill down,” says Brad Hintze director of product marketing for Control4.

And some icing on the software cake: Apple Watch compatibility.

EA Series Pricing, Availability and the Business of Control4

Control4 is releasing all new products today, the day of the announcement. The company is holding several launch parties around the country and live-streaming the event.

“We want to get everyone using the controllers right away, no waiting period,” Vaughn says.

The new entry-level EA-1 retails for $600, including the controller and an SR-260 remote.

“Thank you for including the remote with the base-level controller again,” Whitaker says. “This makes ordering and explaining the system so much easier.”

The mid-level EA-3 retails for $1,000, which is $250 more than the existing HC-250 model. For that, you get an extra audio zone (three instead of two), two extra IR ports (six instead of four), five times the processing power, a gigabit Ethernet switch, high-res audio, an Android-based OSD, and a wall-mount bracket.

The EA-5, which succeeds the $1,500 HC-800, retails for $2,000.

Hintze boasts that all of the new controllers are high-performance machines.

“If a dealer only sells into a low price point, they still take advantage of everything we offer,” he says.

CEO Plaehn emphasizes the point: “We’re not running a tiered ecosystem. What’s really important is that dealers run a single platform. … Even if you put in our entry-level product, you can scale.”

Investors clamoring for a DIY-type solution won’t get it from Control4, at least not this year.

“We don’t bifurcate our brand,” Plaehn says. “We don’t bifurcate our platform.”

Control4 EA-1

Control4 EA-1

  • Advanced multi-core processor delivers a new level of speed and performance for instantaneous, interactive on-screen control and access to lighting, security, music, and video solutions.
  • Elegant, low-profile design for flexible, simple installation. Available mounting bracket allows easy mounting to the back of a TV, on the wall, or to a standard wall box.
  • Incredibly fast, intuitive control from your tablet, smart phone, touch screen, remote, or TV On-Screen Navigator.
  • All-new, elegant on-screen experience for easy access to entertainment and the entire home.
  • Integrated music server with native support for popular streaming services, including Deezer, Pandora, Rhapsody, Tidal, and TuneIn.
  • External Wireless-N and ZigBee antennas simplify installation while delivering high-performance network connectivity.
  • USB port enables connection to external hard drives for easy access to local music content.
  • Control4 App license enables in-home control from multiple iOS—including Apple Watch—and Android mobile devices. Connect to your home remotely with an optional 4Sight subscription.


Fluorescent lights, computer screens, neon signs—there is certainly a lot of peripheral light in our lives. And to your circadian rhythms, that light can read like a lot of excess noise.

Fortunately, smart lighting and scheduled scenes can help you cut back on the effects of unwanted light—at least in your home—keeping you alert throughout the day and helping you fall fast asleep at night.

Using Light Warmth to Wind Down at Night

Scientists who study light’s effects on neurology have noticed one clear through line: cool, white light seems to make the mind more active and productive, while soft, warm light induces melatonin, a precursor to sleep. Color ‘temperature,’ in essence, the amount of blue (‘cool’) or yellow (‘warm’) wavelengths in a light source has been shown to have a definite effect on our sleep—and by extension, our overall health. In fact, Harvard research linked lower melatonin to Type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, modern devices and lights tend to land on the cooler side. Standard LEDs may be better for the environment, but they usually produce a bluish light—not the best for prepping for sleep. In one study, for instance, researchers exposed participants to various amounts of green and blue light, and then surveyed their alertness levels—and measured their neural functioning via EEG. Both the responses and the test results showed a positive correlation between blue light and alertness.

Smart device manufacturers are working hard to help solve this problem, however. Using color-changing bulbs, your home can be programmed to switch from blue to yellow light as the day progresses—and kick your melatonin production into gear.

Say ‘Goodnight’ to Your Devices

Let’s face it: a lot of us are pretty addicted to the small screen. But exposing ourselves to that light at the end of the day can also ratchet up the restless nights. Scientists at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have determined that as little as two hours of pre-bedtime screen use can impact your body’s melatonin production.

Digital screens also have a bluish tint, so they can have a similar effect on your alertness levels as bright LEDs. A command-activated scene can put your television and smart devices to sleep—so you can get some shuteye yourself.

Selective Lighting to Reduce Eyestrain and Fatigue

An overhead light can really only do so much. You can reduce headaches and eyestrain by installing task lighting in kitchens, offices, garages—anywhere you need to focus, really. In the bedroom, overhead recessed lights directed towards the pillow can also get you some of the benefits of ceiling lights without flooding your system with too much light right before bed. Automation makes it really easy to switch on additional lighting systems, too. You can program the lights according to the activity. For instance, with a home automation system like Control4, you can simply tap a “Cooking” button that turns on under-cabinet lights, ramps up the kitchen pendants and cans to 100% illumination, and—because it works in unison with other devices and systems—your favorite cooking playlist can begin playing overhead.

In the living room, you can help reduce eyestrain by installing bias lights—a backlighting system that sits behind your TV or computer screen. Use bulbs that have a 6500K color temperature, the same type of light used in your screen. That way, your eyes won’t be struggling to adjust between the bright digital light and the darkness of the rest of the room. In fact, there are certain smart TVs that come with bias lighting features, if you don’t feel like finding the proper bulbs yourself.

A well-lit home just feels more comfortable, and can highlight your decor and interior design—and smart controls make it just a little easier to manage a wider variety of lighting situations. After all, when it comes to your home life, your comfort and ease are top priority.

About the guest author: Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener, and aspiring homeowner. She resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence. 

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