Home Smart Home

It’s time to wake up for school. Music videos begin to play on your television screen. Your bedroom lights come on gradually, the curtains slide open to welcome the daylight, and a soft voice urges you out of dreamland. No need for an alarm clock to jolt you from bed, you’re gently awakened by an integrated home automation system!

You hurry to the bathroom, where the lights come on as soon as you enter. The tile floor has been pre-warmed for your arrival. When you finish showering, you dry off with automatically pre-heated towels.

In the kitchen, your little brother says you’re out of milk, so you check your refrigerator to make sure. You don’t open the fridge—instead, you use a computer on the door to check its contents. At the push of a button, your refrigerator system automatically reorders milk via the Internet. And when you’re ready for breakfast, a robotic kitchen arm prepares it for you—and cleans up after itself, too.

Once found only in luxury homes, “smart home” conveniences like these are fast becoming more commonplace. Smart homes rely on artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet to operate lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, entertainment and security systems automatically. They also learn about occupants and anticipate their needs.

Smart homes not only make home life more fun and comfortable, but enhance safety as well. For example, smart outlets provide electricity only upon request by a qualified appliance. If the computer system determines that all is well, it sends power to that outlet. If the network senses potential danger, such as a frayed cord, overloaded outlet, or short circuit, the system will deny power to the outlet, thus averting a shock and fire hazard.

Within a decade, most homes will likely have some or all of these smart technologies. In the meantime, you’ll just have to rely on that alarm clock to help you get up in the morning.

Do the Safe Thing

Home Safe Home

Do a simple inspection inside your home to keep yourself and your family safe. Look for these hazards:

  • Overloaded outlets
  • Worn or frayed power cords
  • Power cords running under rugs or furniture legs
  • Appliances used near water without GFCI protection
  • Circuit breakers that trip or fuses that blow often
  • Electric heaters or light bulbs close to anything that can burn
  • Flammable liquids or other materials stored close to electrical appliances

Every home should have smoke detectors to alert you in case of fire. Make sure you also have a multipurpose (Class C) fire extinguisher in the house, preferably in the kitchen.

SCIENCE CONCEPT: Paying for Power

Your local electric utility company sends your household a bill for the electricity you use.

For electricity, you pay for the kilowatt-hours (kWh) used in your home during the billing period. What is a kWh? It is equal to 1,000 watts of electricity used for one hour. If you leave ten 100-watt light bulbs on for an hour, you’ve used one kWh of electricity.

Fantastic Facts

How many miles of electric transmission lines are there in the United States?

The US Energy Information Administration reports that in the United States, there are nearly 160,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines and many hundreds of thousands more miles of distribution lines carrying electricity to our homes.

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