The lighting system consists of 121 loads of LEDs, CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and halogen lamps. The intensity levels of LEDs and halogens are dimmed by 10 percent at all times. The CFLs aren’t able to do that, but when the other lights are set back, they shut off completely. “With the lighting control system, we’re also not lighting areas we don’t need,” Perez says. “A lot of time, transition spaces like hallways are lit 90 percent of the time but are actually used only 10 percent of the time.”
This system goes much further. Photocell sensors are positioned throughout the house to determine how much sunlight is entering and how much additional artificial illumination is needed. The AMX home automation system retrieves local weather information from the Internet and operates the lighting and motorized Lutron Sivoia QED shades accordingly. If it’s a sunny day, for instance, the shades can rise to increase the solar gain, thereby requiring less heat and lighting.
The home control system regulates a complicated water recirculation system that brings hot water to the taps so cold water won’t be wasted. However, that uses power, so the AMX system ensures that it only recirculates when necessary.
The AMX system also acts as an energy monitor. It connects to the solar system’s inverters to read how much electricity the house is producing, and on its touchscreens can show much energy every device on its network is using. It can’t provide information on the house’s total consumption, however, as major appliances aren’t connected to the network.
Conundrum even found ways of making the home theater more energy efficient. Instead of a 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 surround-sound system, Perez used a Meridian-based 3.1 system with phantom surround channels, thereby saving energy and resources. The Meridian speakers also have their own built-in amplifiers (more savings on wire). And because a digital signal can travel right to the Meridian speakers, Conundrum used coaxial cable instead of thick copper speaker cables.
An amplifier for the whole-house music system can be shut down completely, thanks to an AMX PC-1 switch. Doing so reduces the amp’s standby (or vampire) power consumption.
Does Size Matter?
So can a big house like this really be green? Some may object about its size, but there’s no doubt that it’s much greener than it would be without its many energy-efficient and sustainable features.
“I feel that we’ve set a new standard in building, and the size doesn’t matter as much,” says Hamrick. “We challenged ourselves to do the right things by making it healthier, greener, more sustainable, instead of just what we wanted.”
She says going greener with her home also reduces the guilt of some of the excess features, like a driveway heating system. “Wealthier people can afford not only to build a home right, but to buy healthier and smarter and greener homes,” she says. “And once more of these items are brought to the marketplace, it becomes more affordable and accessible to all.”
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates