Technology has been incorporated into construction almost from the beginning. The earliest technologies, like concrete, were used to construct shelters.
Fortunately, building technology has continued to advance. This has made homes more energy-efficient, less expensive, more durable, and safer.
Here are ten ways to understand the technology behind home construction and renovation:
Plumbing is important to maintain the comfort and health of the homeowner. Without drinking water and hot water, life would be difficult.
Plumbing systems are relatively easy to understand. The home’s plumbing is connected to a well or municipal water system to deliver pressurized water to the home’s fixtures and appliances.
Some of the technology behind plumbing renovations include:
- Tankless water heaters: Rather than storing a tank full of hot water, tankless water heaters deliver hot water on demand. The benefit of tankless water heaters is that they are more energy-efficient than conventional hot water heaters. Additionally, water heater tanks are susceptible to corrosion and, consequently, leaks.
- Leak detectors: Lead detectors use sound sensors to detect water flow in a home’s pipes. When water moves through pipes, it makes a distinctive sound whether the water is going to the home’s shower or is leaking out of a cracked or corroded pipe. A leak detector saves money on wasted water, tells you when you need plumbing repair, and can save your carpet, walls, and possessions from water damage.
- Smart sprinklers: A common sight during the spring is a home’s sprinkler system watering the lawn during a rainstorm. Smart sprinklers allow you to control your sprinkler system from your phone anywhere in the world. This enables you to control the amount of water you use to reduce your water bill and conserve water.
Sewers are essential to public health. Sewers prevent the spread of disease, minimize the release of dangerous and stinky gases, and safely capture wastewater for treatment before it is released into the environment.
One new technology behind sewer renovations is the use of endoscopic cameras to inspect sewers for damage. Since sewer lines are buried in the ground, they can be damaged by the soil weighing down on the line as well as tree roots that grow around and into the sewer line.
Rather than digging up the sewer line to inspect it, plumbers can use the same types of cameras doctors use for endoscopic surgery to inspect inside your sewer line. This video inspection will tell the plumber whether your sewer is damaged and requires repair or replacement or is just clogged and requires sewer cleaning.
If your sewer needs repair, another technology behind sewer renovations is trenchless sewer repair. Normally, sewer repair requires digging a deep trench in your yard long enough to expose the sewer line. Instead of digging up the old sewer line and replacing it, sewer lines that have only minor damage can be repaired by pressure spraying epoxy on the inside surface of the sewer line. When the epoxy cures, it seals the cracks and holes in the sewer line.
Some of the most advanced renovations for your home come from its electrical and communications systems. For example, smart electrical outlets communicate with your home network so they can be controlled from a remote, your phone or tablet, or even your voice assistant.
Voice assistants, like Alexa and Siri, are expected to be used by nearly 2 billion users within the next year. By combining these voice assistants with smart fixtures and electrical outlets, homeowners will be able to control almost every device or appliance in the house.
These smart outlets can use your existing wiring. However, when you replace your existing sockets with smart sockets, they require electrical installation by a trained electrician so they are installed safely.
Another technology behind electrical renovations is energy-efficient lighting. LED lights, for example, use 75% less energy than conventional light bulbs. By replacing a home’s light fixtures and bulbs with LED lights, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars per year on your electricity bills.
Environmental control, including heating and cooling, is the top expense for most households. As a result, much of the technology behind air conditioning renovations involves making the system safer for the environment and more energy efficient.
For example, new refrigerants are replacing the old refrigerants that posed a danger to humans and the Earth’s ozone layer when they leaked. In fact, some projects have tested using clean, safe water as a refrigerant. This would significantly improve the safety and reduce the cost of HVAC systems.
One emerging technology for reducing air conditioning costs is artificial intelligence (AI) thermostats. The first generation of programmable thermostats installed by HVAC contractors allowed users to program different temperatures for different times of the day. This conserved electricity by turning the air conditioner off during the day when the home was empty, and turning it on again at night when residents returned home.
The next evolution was smart thermostats that communicated with the home’s WiFi network and could be controlled from a mobile phone or tablet device anywhere in the world. The newest version is AI thermostats. These thermostats use artificial intelligence to learn patterns so they do not need to be programmed. Instead, these thermostats use information like the location of your phone to figure out your schedule of when you are home and when you are away. Using these patterns, the AI controls your air conditioning system in the most efficient way while still providing a comfortable environment.
On the other end of the spectrum is heating. Heating has also undergone a technological revolution over the years. In addition to improving efficiency, furnaces, particularly oil furnaces, have sought to switch to sustainable energy sources and improve the safety of boilers.
For example, many oil systems can be configured to burn biofuel during a home renovation. Rather than being refined from crude oil, biofuel is produced from plant oils and discarded restaurant grease. This decreases the environmental impact of heating oil that arises from drilling and refining crude oil.
Technology has also been applied to improving boiler safety. For example, when inspecting whether a boiler should be replaced during a home renovation, technicians can inspect the boiler with ultrasonic testing equipment to determine if the boiler is close to failure or if it merely needs boiler service.
If you are looking at replacing your kitchen appliances during your next home renovation, you should understand some of the new technology behind modern kitchen appliances.
Many appliances now have smart capabilities. This enables your refrigerator to send you alerts when the door is ajar, the water filter needs changing, or the ice tray is empty. Similarly, your oven can message you when it is done preheating and sensors in the stove can heat a pan anywhere on the cooktop without limiting you to specific cooking burners.
Like other areas of the home, one technology behind many advances in home appliances is improved energy efficiency. Energy consumption is one of the drivers of global climate change and reducing energy use is critical to reducing carbon emissions. Additionally, reductions in energy use by kitchen appliances are reflected directly with reductions in your monthly electric and gas bills.
One controversial, but scientifically proven fact, is that gas stoves are not energy efficient. A well-functioning gas stove after gas stove repairs is more efficient than broken or older gas stove. However, an induction stove is nearly twice as efficient as a gas stove and does not produce carbon emissions from the burning of natural gas.
An induction stove uses an electrical field to excite the molecules in the pan. As they are energized, the pan heats up even though the stove’s surface remains cool. This makes induction stoves more efficient and safer than gas or electric burners. As a result, many homeowners renovating their kitchens are switching to, or at least considering, inductions stoves.
Fireplaces might have been one of humans’ earliest inventions. Although we no longer need fireplaces for heating and cooking, a fireplace installation creates an ambiance that cannot be matched by a heat register or radiator. As a result, many home renovations include installing or replacing a fireplace.
Technological advances in fireplaces improves the safety and efficiency of your fireplace. For example, one concern with fireplaces is the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Modern fireplaces use venting technologies and chimney inserts to ensure that exhaust products, like carbon monoxide, do not blow back into the living space of your home.
Another technology behind modern fireplaces is the ability to use multiple types of fuel. Pellet fireplaces, for example, can burn pellets made from sawdust or bark. However, pellets can also be made from biofuels like corn, cherry pits, or discarded vegetable matter. These alternative fuels are sustainable and have less environmental impact from their harvest than trees.
When adding on to an existing home, building an auxiliary building, or addressing structural issues, many advanced materials are available.
- Recycled materials: Pre-formed panels of recycled aluminum can provide sheathing for walls and roofs. Likewise, plastic can be recycled into carpets and paper and cotton fabric can be recycled into insulation. These products reduce your home’s carbon footprint by avoiding the energy used to produce virgin building materials.
- Self-healing materials: Engineers have developed concrete with microscopic water capsules embedded inside. When the concrete cracks, the capsules pop open and help the concrete dust inside the crack to re-solidify.
- Composite materials: Carbon fiber and other synthetic materials are stronger and lighter than conventional building materials. However, before you hire a forklift contractor to deliver a pallet of carbon fiber panels for your home renovation, be aware that they are still fairly expensive.
- Hydrogel ceramics: Bricks with hydrogel embedded inside can reduce cooling costs by preventing heat transfer through the exterior walls. Instead of passing exterior heat into the home, the heat is absorbed and trapped by the hydrogel.
When planning your home renovation, you will find that the technology behind developing and testing the plans can improve the final product. Computer-aided design (CAD) software has been around for decades. However, technology can now provide you with a virtual walkthrough of your renovated home by generating a three-dimensional simulation from your building plans.
Moreover, modern CAD packages provide the contractors involved in your construction project with improved collaboration tools. Rather than working from separate structural, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical plans, all the contractors can work from a single model that includes all the systems. This allows the contractors to spot potential conflicts during the planning stage rather than during construction.
Once construction has started, augmented reality can help both the customer and the construction workers ensure the build is proceeding as planned. By layering visualizations on top of real images, a display can be created that can illustrate what work has been completed and what work remains.
Not all planning tools are limited to the professionals. Apps available for phones and tablets allow you to manipulate a photo of your room to envision a different color or configuration. This helps you simulate your renovation and discard bad ideas before they work their way into your building plans. This saves both time and money as you renovate your home.
Home builders are employing new building techniques to reduce the cost and time for home renovations. Most of the technology behind these techniques are applied to the structure of your home. However, advanced materials and the techniques for using them have improved almost every system you might touch during a home renovation.
Some examples of these advanced building techniques include:
- Prefabrication: By prefabricating parts in a work area then transporting them to the construction site for assembly, builders can test the size and fit before reaching the worksite. This saves both the time and money of transportation in the event that parts do not fit correctly. For example, this could be used for a garage door installation.
- Three-dimensional printing: On-site, three-dimensional printing can produce the exact parts needed on demand. This reduces downtime while workers are waiting for parts to arrive or, worse yet, be shipped from a remote location.
- Spray materials: Rather than laying, cutting, or pouring materials, high-pressure pumps can deliver concrete, insulation, and even grass seed exactly where it is needed in a fraction of the time and with fewer workers. This reduces cost and construction time.
- Drones and robotics: Experiments with automation have provided promising leads for robots that can lay bricks and tile, freeing workers up from these repetitive tasks that require human judgment and decision-making. Similarly, drones are used to inspect and survey build sites as well as provide views during construction that cannot otherwise be had.
The technology behind home renovations is evolving quickly. Building plans, materials, and techniques have improved with the introduction of computers to identify potential problems before construction starts. Moreover, fast fabrication has improved the efficiency of builders while advanced materials have improved the quality of the buildings.
Finally, almost every system within the home can be improved through technology. Smart homes give you total control over your environmental system, kitchen appliances, and even your electrical sockets. Improvements in plumbing not only protect your home from water damage and sewer leaks, but can reduce water waste. Together, these technologies can make your home renovation a step into the future.