Unique Hi-Tech Products for your Home
Technology is constantly evolving and being applied to products and materials that are available to us the consumer. To even consider how far things have developed in the last 5 years alone is quite astounding. The world of residential construction is no stranger to this evolution, there is a constant demand for improved efficiency (both in energy and space) and more natural integration. All things that to us today may seem lavish and unnecessary – but perhaps in 10 years time will be so common place we will struggle to live without (cell phones anyone?!). As with any technology, often its usefulness is only limited by our imagination. We are anxious to see what the next ten years brings to the home building world and how it can improve not only our lives, but reduce our impact on the environment.
Here are a few new products that clients are more often expressing interest in – in some cases they’ve been used for years already, in others they are just coming on the market. As with all brand-new products they must pass regulatory tests to ensure safety standards are met.
If you are someone who enjoys having a garden/green-house that lets you grow your own vegetables then this might be of interest to you. It allows you to incorporate a small fully-automated “cultivator” into your home (fits under most countertops – like a dishwasher or mini-fridge). It automates the light and water cycles, controls humidity, and produces greens that are 100% organic.
This unit gives you an astounding variety of herbs and veggies you can grow year round and doesn’t require a separate room or building (greenhouse). There are also larger commercial sized units with more capacity but these would need to be situated somewhere other than the Kitchen. The water and power is all pre-run while the area is being roughed-in and so it requires no constant filling or plugging in. Definitely a unique feature for your Kitchen as well!
A typical tiled shower or tub requires you to step over a curb or ledge to get in – this can in some cases not be an option for people with mobility issues, or like me prone to stubbing toes. In order for a shower to drain properly, it needs a slope to the drain. This is usually achieved by doing what is called a “drypac” shower base and building the base up, and sloping to the center drain.
For a curbless shower application to work, we need to recess the shower floor itself (with the slope to the drain) into the floor. Schluter makes a shower system designed to do just this, making for a smooth and seamless transition between the bathroom floor, and the shower floor. This is particularly useful in cases with someone in a wheelchair or with a walker – giving easy access to the shower area.
SOLAR POWER GENERATING ROOFING
As of the writing of this blog, this product is still not available for sale in Canada and is being slowly rolled out to select homes in the United States. The possibilities that it provides though are quite unique. Solar Panel systems to power homes have been around for a long time, though the technology has improved it is still the same in general principle. The typical system involves solar panels fastened to the roof above your shingles - to some not the most aesthetically appealing feature!
These new solar roof “shingles” are actually a glass tile with the photovoltaic modules built-in – so no need for solar panels. They can be combined with a Powerwall (big storage cells) to allow for use of stored power in non-sunlight times, allowing you to be off-grid indefinitely. On top of all that, Tesla has managed to produce these in varying styles and is offering a lifetime warranty on the tile. We for one are anxiously awaiting this product up here in Canada.
AIR CLEANING HARDWOOD
To appreciate the value of this product, you have to understand VOC’s and the negative impact they can have on your health. Volatile Organic Compounds are gases that are released by some materials in the home that over time may lead to medical issues. This includes things from paint, waxes and cleaners, to the building materials themselves, your furniture, etc.
With changes to the building code and improved performance of exterior materials, homes built these days are far more sealed and separated from the outside environment than ever before. What this hardwood essentially does is filter out the VOC’s in your home – it utilizes a proprietary film that is activated by light. This reduces the VOC levels and reduces your potential risk.
SELF TINTING GLASS
Most windows and doors on the outside of your home will always need some form of window covering. Not only for privacy reasons but also for reducing the effect of ultraviolet rays and solar heat gain. Anyone who has purchased blinds in the past knows it can get quite costly, they require maintenance and cleaning, and they can hinder the view. There are several companies today that have been developing a type of glass that self-tints based on the amount of sunlight it is exposed to, so the brighter the sun and exposure the darker the glass becomes. This is good for windows where privacy is less of a concern and the view is to be accentuated. With no blinds or drapes there is zero obstruction for the view you want to capture.
For privacy areas there is another application to the glass that has microscopic liquid crystals randomly scattered in a sealed glass unit, this fills the panel and diffuses the light; giving complete privacy on both sides. With the flick of switch however a charge can align the crystals and allow for complete transparency. This can be used on interior and exterior windows and allow for some very creative use of space depending on the need.