October 10, 2012
| by Steven Castle
It’s cool to control your A/V, lighting and security systems from a TV screen. But have you ever seen high-efficiency boilers and electrically heated windows monitored like that?
Larry Winkler, owner of the famous Sculptured House, featured in one of our recent slide shows, can do just that in his Star Trek-inspired command center/utility room. One side of the utility room has four wall-mounted LED TVs and a captain’s chair, while the back displays the mechanical systems and an artistic array of plumbing and color-coded conduit.
When Winkler realized the iconic, futuristic house was losing more than 60 percent of its heat every hour, the spaceship-shaped home got a heating system and efficiency makeover, including more insulation and a new boiler system. Two wall-mounted Lochinvar Knight WBN series boilers service 11 zones of high-temperature forced hot water heat, four zones of in-floor radiant heating and a snow melt system on the driveway.
The boilers are modulating, sealed and combustible, meaning they adjust their firing temperatures based on factors like the outside air temperature, so a boiler isn’t firing full-blast when it doesn’t need to. This boosts energy efficiency.
On one of the utility room’s LED TVs, Winkler can view boiler temperature, outside temperature, domestic hot water temperature and see graphs with minute-by minute data—and even reprogram the boiler set points if desired. The boilers are able to do this with on-board computers that record the data, connected via USB repeaters to a Windows-based PC in the rack and containing the manufacturer’s software, which can be viewed on the LED TV.
Some of the windows in the home were huge energy leaks as well, so they were replaced with electrically heated triple-pane windows from Energized Glass. Their set points and on and off times can be programmed on screen in the command center as well. Communication occurs wirelessly via a dongle on the rack’s PC that sends radio signals to the windows’ built in power modules.
HVAC professional Mark Eatherton of Mark Eatherton & Associates in Denver installed the systems and expects the home to see energy consumption reductions of up to 30 to 40 percent this winter, based on all the energy improvements.
Comfort and efficiency aren’t the only winter comforts to come to the Sculptured House. As soon as it starts snowing, Winkler can turn on the snow melt system from his smartphone.
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