Frank Laskey measures the energy his house saves in microwave pizzas. He taps a wireless Crestron web tablet to navigate to a web site, where he can read out the savings resulting from his solar photovoltaic (PV) system and GridPoint battery backup system.
Colored graphs show that in the past 30 days, his photovoltaic and GridPoint system has produced 297 kilowatts and purchased just 19.8 kilowatts. “Over 90 percent of my power has been generated by my own system,” he smiles. With another click or two, he sees how in 30 days he has avoided 480.3 pounds of carbon emissions, which the GridPoint site tells him is equivalent of about 24.5 gallons of gas or removing 15.2 cars from the road for one day or cooking 3,196 pizzas in a microwave oven.
Laskey’s company, Capital Construction, of Ballston Spa, NY, specializes in building green homes. And his own home, completed last year, is the working model for his Louden Ridge development in Wilton, NY. The 3,000-square-foot home is loaded with green building ideas, incorporating energy efficiency, local building materials, clean air and the technology to control it all.
Eighteen Kyocera solar panels on the roof comprise a 2.8-kilowatt photovoltaic system that both stores electricity for backup and is tied to the grid, effectively selling power back to the local utility. It’s tethered to the GridPoint Energy Management Appliance, a unit in Laskey’s basement that continuously trickle charges nine batteries in its chassis, “buys” power when needed, and keeps track of how much energy has been produced by the system and how much of it has come from the utility.
The web tablet Laskey wields doubles as a controller for other housewide systems, from the audio to the lighting to the heating and ventilation. The Crestron control system enables an easy one-stop interface, complete with preset automated scenes that adjust the lights and whole-house music to appropriate levels for cooking, dining and entertaining. When he leaves the house, all the lights shut off five minutes after he’s gone.
In addition, the lighting control system from Lutron saves energy by dimming the lights, either via presets or on cue. The lights come on to 90 percent instead of 100 percent, which saves about 10 percent in energy and doubles the bulb life. The systems were installed by electronics contractor Ambiance Systems of nearby Clifton Park, NY.
But perhaps the pièce de résistance in this house is a thermal chimney, a cupola that rises from the second floor to create a high open space, with motorized awning windows that open to exhaust warm, rising air in the summer and keep the house cooler. The windows open automatically when the temperature inside exceeds 72 degrees, and they close when it’s 65 degrees or less. Ceiling fans turn to draw the air up in the summer and automatically reverse direction in the colder months to direct the warm air downward.
Ambiance programmed the fans and windows into the Crestron system so they could be operated via the Crestron web pad or in-wall controls. Laskey says that thanks to the thermal chimney, he only had to use the air conditioner seven or eight times last summer.
Laskey isn’t a big home theater guy, but he does like his whole-house music system, which serves up tunes stored on a ReQuest media server around the house through invisible Sound Advance speakers and a small-diameter Linn Sweetspot in the kitchen.
The builder is also a fan of clean air. A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) from Lifebreath uses an independent ductwork system, exchanging air by bringing fresh air in and exhausting stale air. It runs 24/7 to circulate and filter out particulates and allergens. Capital Construction is an American Lung Association (ALA)–certified builder, and the home is also certified by Energy Star for its use of energy-efficient appliances and overall energy efficiency.
For more articles on green technology, check out Steve Castle’s Green Blog.
Follow Electronic House
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