For more than 20 years, Steve Hunter has been designing and installing advanced electronic systems into homes. He thought he had seen and done it all—until he got a phone call from Control4. It seems that some products from Control4’s line of home control systems had been chosen to be part of a huge green home project to take place in Brentwood, CA. As one of Control4’s leading dealers in Southern California, Hunter and his company, The Hunter Group, were given the opportunity to outfit a 4,000-square-foot home with a complete Control4 system that would help the future owners use their energy more efficiently.
As Hunter soon discovered, this would be no ordinary job. The entire home would be constructed off-site by an innovative green home developer, LivingHomes of Santa Monica, CA. Eleven individual modules would be prefabricated at a factory then shipped to the site where they would be connected to create a unique, modular—and green—living environment. “Nearly all the wiring was done off-site,” says Hunter. Not wiring, exactly, but a highway of flexible conduit that would run from the planned location of the central Control4 control processor to various areas of the home. This off-site “wiring” work, in addition to a product lineup that changed “almost daily,” according to Hunter, kept him and his team of designers and installers on their toes.
After the 11 pieces were joined together, Hunter and his crew could start installing the electronics. Unlike most of the jobs his company had done in the past, though, this one would consist of mostly wireless components. “Cutting into the structure to run additional wiring would have jeopardized its energy-efficient design, so we had to really think outside the box,” Hunter says. It turns out, not too far outside the box. Control4 carries its own line of wireless thermostats and dimmer switches, which helped ease Hunter into the world of wireless. “My theory has always been to use hardwired products whenever possible for better reliability,” Hunter explains. “This was the first project where we would have to utilize wireless products almost exclusively.” Although Hunter is an advocate for hardwired systems, he felt confident switching over to Control4’s wireless portfolio of products. The thermostat, dimmers and switches planned for the home would be able to receive commands from the home’s central Control4 processor via a extremely robust wireless transmission technology called ZigBee.
The type of signals the processor would transmit would be completely up to Hunter. Using special software, he created several energy-saving routines for the house to follow. There’s one that lowers the motorized window shades if the temperature of a particular room goes above a certain set point. Wireless motion sensors help regulate the temperature, too. If a room has been unoccupied for more than an hour, a sensor signals the Control4 processor to turn off the heat or air conditioning until somebody walks into the room again. Fifteen minutes of inactivity triggers the off switch on the Control4 dimmers, turning off the lights temporarily. Even when the lights are on, the house is saving energy. Nearly every fixture utilizes either an LED or compact fluorescent bulb, both of which consume significantly less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb.
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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.