Yes, it sounds like something from Back to the Future or an episode of Star Trek, and it may not be too far off. Imagine a home where the windows sense the ambient temperature and humidity and open or close automatically based on your desired comfort levels. This, however, is not the stuff of science fiction, but technology that exists today thanks to a device called a linear actuator.
Unlike conventional electric motors, straight-line, which move in a circle, a linear actuator converts the rotation of a motor into straight line power. Think of a telescoping rod that can both push and pull, an action that allows the device to slide, lift, or tip items from small movements performed by microactuators to large heavy movements such as raising a garage door or collapsing a retractable sunroof.
Thanks to the creation of small actuators they can fit into cramped spaces where traditional pneumatics and hydraulics are not practical. They also require far less maintenance, last longer, and are energy efficient. That may be why actuators are appearing in home settings in a variety of innovative ways.
In the Home
In this digital age, linear actuators have found a place in the smart control movement. Combined with cellular technology, actuators are being used to create automatic windows and doors, gates, lighting and much more. Such innovation has tied in neatly with eco-movement where we can program automated systems to operate for maximum energy efficiency within our homes.
The linear actuator has also found a place in the minimalist decorative movement and with the tiny home movement. Actuators are being utilized to create everything from retractable beds to kitchen appliances that stow themselves away in cabinetry.
Finally, actuators are being utilized to make living easier for those who are older or who have specific needs based on physical differences. Chairs that raise up, beds that tilt the occupant into a comfortable position, even cabinetry that lowers for those in wheelchairs are all made possible by linear actuators.
A few of the other potential uses of actuators in the home are:
Tables that retract into the floor to create more space when not in use.
Computers that can lift out of a table surface so that the space can double as an office and, when not in use, a dining area.
Retractors that automatically open and close pool covers.
Spice racks that rise out of the counter for use and stow themselves away when not needed.
Desktops that can be raised as standing desks, and adjusted back down for sitting.
TVs that can be extended out of beds, entertainment centers, and wall nooks.
Solar panels that can be raised by day and laid flat at night.
Garage door openers that are not only stronger and seal better, but also don’t require the annual lubrication of traditional systems.
By Ivan Young