A smart switch is a device used to help people monitor how much electricity they use personally or is being used overall. It does this by increasing resistance so turning on the light becomes more difficult during times when energy usage is highest. The smart switch is considered one of the most innovative energy conservation approaches, especially those developed in recent years.
Smart switches typically work by making the process of turning on the light more challenging.
The smart switch accesses computer network equipment to monitor electricity usage on a constant or near-constant basis. Some switches may be turned on or programmed to only operate at a certain time of day, when electricity usage would be historically highest. So these options can be one of the easiest tools to use because they are automatically controlled.
Resistance to a smart switch is applied through what is known as a brake pad. Just like when the brakes are applied to a car, friction and pressure work to slow the wheels down, so does a brake pad on a smart switch. It pushes a plate, which makes the switch operation more difficult. While the light switch can still be operated, many may think twice about it if there is more resistance.
The smart switch, while not a truly controversial move, has received some criticism. For example, critics claim that switching makes little difference in the effort to save electricity, because many people may not even realize the resistance it exerts. Furthermore, some conspiracy theorists have posited that this is simply a step away from the government dictating to individuals when they will and will not use indoor lighting.
There are two basic ways to program the smart switch to operate. It can provide resistance when there is an extremely high level of electricity usage in the home, or it can do so when the entire grid is experiencing high demand levels. Some can be programmed to operate when one of the two is happening. Theoretically, this can help prevent power outages. However, there is no guarantee that keeping some lights off will make a significant difference, as other household electrical components use much more electricity.
The decision to use a smart switch is truly a personal one and can serve as a good reminder for those concerned about energy conservation. While the switch does not, by itself, stop energy usage, it will help keep those thoughts in the first place. The switch, sometimes referred to as a smart switch, should be commercially available in 2009.