Green A/V Limits Phantom Power Load
This California home is shedding energy by automatically cutting power to its array of high-end electronics.
GOLD WINNER: Best Green Home
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June 19, 2009 by Steven Castle

Most high-tech houses are cool when the electronics systems turn on, but the coolest part of this home is when the electronics turn off.

That’s because when many of the electronic devices in this house are turned off, they’re completely off—and don’t draw the “phantom” or “vampire” loads of electricity that most home electronics systems use whenever they are plugged in. In this house alone, the phantom electricity load has been cut by a third, thanks to the use of energy-efficient electronics and automating them to power down completely.

For example, the audio and video components for the two media rooms and a whole-house audio system shut off completely when a Crestron home control system sends signals to Panamax power conditioners, which cut power to the components plugged into them. In addition, a primary Crestron touchpanel in the kitchen can put secondary Crestron touchpanels throughout the house in sleep mode, thereby saving more power. And when no one’s in the house, power is cut to all the electronics.

“We simplified turning off the lighting controls and audio/video systems, and we sought out vampire loads and automated the elimination of those loads,” says Gene Quisisem, systems designer for electronics installer SoundVision of Novato, CA.

Homeowner Frank Levinson can monitor the home’s electricity use, as well as his family’s water use, via an Agilewaves energy-monitoring system. He simply logs onto a secure web page, and his energy use is charted by hour, day, month or year. He can also see how much electricity is produced by the 12-kilowatt solar panel array on the home’s roof, as well as how much hot water is made available by a solar thermal system.

“Frank is up at night watching the energy consumption of the house when people go to sleep, looking at the data, and seeing what he can do save more energy,” says Quisisem.

Going Greener
Levinson had personal and professional reasons for going green in this 4,200-square-foot house overlooking the Golden Gate near San Francisco. It’s clear when talking with him that he believes in saving energy resources, and his venture capital business, Small World Group, invests in green technology companies. “I have a bunch of friends who put in solar systems and pat themselves on the back for it, but we wanted to do more than that,” he says.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
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.

Equipment List

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Systems Design and Installation
SoundVision, Novato, CA

Don Larwood, Berkeley, CA

Mahoney Architects

Solar Systems Installation
Sun First!

Agilewaves hardware

SunPower 12-kW photovoltaic system with dual inverters
Heliodyne solar thermal system and Takagi tankless water heater

Pioneer Elite KURO PRO-150FD 60-inch plasma
Mitsubishi PD-5065 50-inch plasma
Chief PDR-2042B articulating wall mount
Chief PDR-UB universal articulating wall mount
Sanus extension mount SA-VMB1B
Sanus low-profile plasma mount SA-VMPL2B
Audio Control Model 860 12-channel 60-watt amplifier/equalizer
Audio Control Model 1160 16-channel amplifier/equalizer
Axis 243SA video server
Denon AVR 3808 receiver
Denon AVR 4308ci receiver
Panasonic, Blu-ray DVD player with SD card slot
Panasonic Blu-ray player set up for multiregion DVDs (2)
ReQuest F2.400 250-GB music server
Velodyne 3000-Watt Dynamic sub amp (2)
Leon Speakers Hz616 center-channel speaker,
Leon Speakers PR606-60 Profile series on-wall speakers (2)
Leon Speakers HZ414-LCR left, right, center speaker for 50-inch plasma
SpeakerCraft Aim Wide 5 in-ceiling speakers (24)
Velodyne in-wall subs (2)
Active Thermal Management cooling system
Extron video switchers
Panamax MAX 7500-PRO power conditioner & voltage regulator
Panamax power conditioner with 20-amp circuit
Panamax Powermax 8 Series surge protector

Crestron home control system
Lutron HomeWorks system
Netgear Ethernet switches

Channel Vision P-0921 2-door telephone entry system
Holovision intercom entry system

Middle Atlantic racks
Pro-Series HDMI cable
Terk XM antenna
Tributaries Series 5 audio cables

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