Christmas 365: Day 263

September 20, 2014

263 Give directions to shome who is lost. Photo credit:


Christmas 365: Day 262

September 19, 2014

262 Arrive on time.Photo credit:


Christmas 365: Day 261

September 18, 2014

261 Speak with a homeless person. Photo credit:


Christmas 365: Day 260

September 17, 2014

260 Help someone move.Photo credit: 


Smarten Up Your Home

September 16, 2014

 Smart Home

Making your home smarter isn’t just a fancy way to say that it’s more technologically sound and state of the art. While those sentiments may be true and the tech-savvy of the world would likely be jealous, there is more to it than keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. Smart home upgrades often lead to improvements in efficiency for your residence, which can cause reductions in electricity (great for you and your wallet). In this post, I’ll provide a rundown of products that are designed to help your home becoming more intelligent and leave your bank accounts feeling better when the electric bill is due.


The first thing you need to make your home smarter and more efficient is the most obvious: adjusting the thermostat. Living in a warmer climate like San Diego, this may have already been a priority, though I’d have to visit each reader’s home to know their exact situation. With that in mind, I’d be remiss to not recommend installing a thermostat that is zone-based and programmable. In using such a thermostat, you’re able to remotely—that means via an Internet-capable device like a smartphone or tablet—adjust the heating and cooling system in your home. As for the zone-based function, it does exactly what its name implies: You’re able to control which parts of your home receive heating or cooling, which can mean some serious savings for guest areas especially. According to Clean Technica, these devices can save you up to $180 a year in energy costs. Not bad, right?

Belkin Wemo

Like the Clean Technica post, Verizon Wireless’ page dedicated to smart tech points to a number of different opportunities for automation. However, there is one that stood out; it’s a programmable switch that basically gives you free reign over whatever is plugged into it. This includes televisions, fans, and lamps, all of which you can easily control (turn on and off) through your smartphone or tablet. As a huge bonus in terms of figuring out the savings you can earn through this device, it monitors energy usage. With that information, you can see which appliances are eating up more of your bill and make the appropriate changes.

While those two options are definitely on the smaller and more affordable scale, there’s one left that will lead to bigger savings at, of course, a bigger cost. For those who haven’t guessed it yet, I’m referring to solar energy, of which plenty can be harnessed given the sunny SoCal skies and (beyond) fair weather. To be fair, you don’t have to spend that much to benefit from solar, as you can buy lamps and lights for your porch or outdoor areas that can rely on the sun’s rays. But if you do choose to buy panels for your roof, you can see significant savings around 20-30 percent in a year’s time. 

Scott Hammond with the team at NREL

Additionally, there is new solar technology that allows you to forego those old-fashioned panels. Like SolarWindow, for example, which use “organic solar arrays” to produce energy through capturing rays that hit your windows or other glass surfaces. They’re not exactly see through—something you’ll notice quickly when visiting their site—but advancements in this portion of solar technology show that translucent paneling is soon coming. The only problem, as noted on Engadget, is that these newly developed window-like panels don’t harness the same energy as their tried-and-true brethren. Still, as one reader noted in the comments, “Skyscrapers, greenhouses, and other window heavy buildings that do not lend themselves to traditional photovoltaic cells could make this viable even at 1% efficiency.” It’s a valid point and one that should certainly be taken into consideration for home and business owners alike when the technology is refined. 

Until then, there are clearly plenty of ways for homeowners to cut back on electricity costs while also decreasing the size of their carbon footprint.

Guest writer to Livin In San Diego,  Amanda Cole is a newcomer to online journalism with an interest in technology and how it can be commonly applied to improve our lives. She lives in New York with her boyfriend and yellow lab, Jack.