In recent years, smart home technology has exploded, making our homes better connected, and aiming to improve the lives of homeowners. You can now turn on the lights in your living room with the tap of an app whilst sitting on the other side of the world.
One of the new technologies set to make an impression on homeowners in the next few years are solar driveways. But is the world ready for smart drives, and is this technology actually viable? Below we will explore the benefits and limitations of solar roads and driveways.
There are a number of benefits that come with a solar driveway, and below are some of the most useful for homeowners.
It may seem obvious from their name, but solar driveways have built in solar photovoltaic panels, which allow them to generate electricity. This will provide free and green electricity to the property and help reduce electricity bills. There is also the benefit of government backed schemes, such as the feed-in tariff scheme, which pay homeowners for producing solar power.
Solar drives are installed in much the same way as conventional block paving. This means they are easy and cheap to repair, as a single damaged block can be removed and replaced. The design helps ensure the driveway will be strong and durable, which is important for something that will regularly need to support several tonnes of vehicle weight.
Imagine being able to wake up after a night full of snowfall and simply drive out of your driveway without having to worry about ice and snow. If you have a solar driveway, your snow and ice worries will be a thing of the past thanks to its inbuilt heating ability. This technology will automatically melt snow and ice, ensuring your drive and paths are safe to walk on, and can easily be driven over.
A large number of homes have lights in their front yard, and with solar drives, the lights are built in. Not only can these lights brighten up your front yard at night, but they can also be configured into different patterns and shapes with a tap of an app, allowing endless possibilities, from marking parking spots to providing the lines of a basketball court.
A smart drive comes equipped with sensors, which have a range of possibilities. They can light up the paths as you arrive home from work after dark, or alert you to the presence of someone walking along your driveway.
Solar Driveway Limitations
New technologies always come with a degree of caution and trepidation. Things can go wrong, and there has been limited testing on solar driveways, which may deter potential buyers. Whilst solar panels have been around for more than 60 years, the idea of being able to drive over them is completely new. The photovoltaics are only a small portion of what solar drives have to offer, and malfunctions can occur with any of the built in tech, such as the heating, lights, sensors, etc.
Since the turn of the century, a large number of countries around the world have increased their renewable energy use. One of the most prominent government endorsed and backed schemes is the feed-in tariff scheme, which rewards homeowners for installing solar panels with a fixed rate for every unit of power they generate. This would be available to users of solar drives, but unfortunately the payment rates have started to decrease over the past few years.
As you might expect, the cost of a solar driveway will be far more expensive than a comparative concrete or gravel drive. The high price tag will most likely be one of the biggest limiting factors, especially in the earlier years.
A limitation with the solar panels is that they won’t work when they have a parked car casting a shadow over them. Fortunately, most homes do not have their cars parked at home during daylight hours during the week.
Whilst there aren’t precise figures for a smart driveway installation, the technology is not cheap. Not only does it come packed with great features, but it also has to last several decades, be weatherproof and withstand the pressure of heavy vehicles.
Although prices will be expensive, it is important to consider that solar drives will generate electricity. This power will save homeowners money on their electricity bills, and also generate an income from the domestic electricity generation schemes.
Smart technologies as a whole are far more expensive than comparative services and appliances, so it is no surprise that a smart driveway will also be more expensive than a traditional drive. Other smart technologies have become more affordable as the technology becomes more widely used. If past smart home tech is anything to go by, there will be a line of consumers wanting to try this technology, regardless of the price.
When considering price, it is important to remember that repairs will be cost effective compared to many other types of driveways. Concrete, tarmac and resin driveways are expensive to repair, and the fix is often unsightly. However, when a smart drive needs a repair, the damaged block is simply removed and replaced.
Other Smart Technologies
Whilst a solar driveway may seem like a farfetched smart home technology to some, it is important to consider some of the other unlikely smart home inventions. Some of the tech that we have seen in our homes in recent years, which many would have never believed would be a success include:
- Smart Toilet Seats – play your favourite music, lift the toilet seat and keep a record of your movements, all through a phone app.
- Musical Bulbs – Plug a smart bulb into your standard ceiling fitting, and not only will you be able to choose from millions of different colours, but you can also play music.
- Auto-Watering Plant Pots – For those without a green thumb, this is the perfect present. It will keep your plants well-watered without having to lift a finger.
- Smart Egg Tray – Ever wanted to know which of your eggs is the oldest? Or need to check how many eggs are left in your fridge whilst down at the shops? Now you will know the answer.
- Petcube – Watch and interact with your pets, wherever you are in the world.
Only time will tell whether smart drives are a viable smart home technology, but if installation prices are reduced, there could be a market. There are a number of benefits that come with a smart driveway, but consumers will need to see this technology tested and verified before it is likely to become a success. Fortunately, there are plans to install solar roads in several countries, which will provide consumers with exposure to this technology in action.
We would love to hear what other people think of this technology, so please comment below.