November 27, 2007 by Lisa Montgomery
The 1865 brownstone purchased by Bob and Leslie Saltzman had all the features you’d expect to see in a home first occupied by a descendant of William Penn. There was a root cellar where a dumbwaiter would deliver items up to a prep kitchen and then up another level to a serving kitchen, heavy chestnut doors on the exterior and lots and lots of stairs—four flights of them, to be exact. And that’s not counting the stairs that lead to the three levels below grade. While stair climbing is great cardiovascular exercise, the Saltzmans knew it would be an inefficient way to manage their large house. “Each floor had its own air conditioner and thermostat,” Bob explains. “So whenever we wanted to change the temperature, we had to travel up and down the steps to each level. It was absolutely crazy, so I started looking for a way to consolidate the thermostats so that I could control them all from anywhere in the house.”
To find a suitable solution, Bob did what any tech-savvy homeowner would do: He booted up his computer, jumped online, and scoured the Internet for information about controls for heating and cooling systems. His search led him to Home Automation Inc. (HAI), a Louisiana-based company that manufactures a line of smart communicating thermostats, among other products. Bob immediately contacted an HAI rep in his area and began what would become a huge high-tech overhaul—involving the hiring of several separate contractors who would install a wide assortment of electronic products from dozens of manufacturers.
Running Hot and Cold
One of the first technology experts on the scene was Charles Whitney of C. Whitney Mech., based in Croydon, PA. At the top of his to-do list: Update the home’s existing heating and cooling units with a control system that would allow the Saltzmans to adjust the temperature from anywhere in the house. It would be a tricky endeavor, given the home’s unusual combination of steam, radiant and heat pump systems, plus four individual air-conditioning compressors serving four different zones of the house. Over the course of about a month, the existing heating and cooling units were networked to new HAI thermostats and interactive, wall-mounted touchpanels.
Located on every floor, the touchpanels show the homeowners the current temperature on each level and allow them to adjust the setting of each thermostat directly from the screen. Most of the time, though, the thermostats adjust automatically, having been programmed to raise and lower at predefined times each day based on Bob and Leslie’s routines.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.
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