How Tech Makes Green for Downsized Home
Motion-sensing technology shuts down lights and standby loads in this low-energy renovation.
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October 22, 2009 by Steven Castle

The owners of this New Jersey home are downsizing their lifestyles and investing in green building techniques and clean energy sources like geothermal (heat and cooling from ground sources). But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to enjoy the conveniences of home electronics. In fact, home technology will help them be even greener.

“We’re doing it for ourselves,” says this homeowner. “We want a healthy house to live in and raise our kids in. The second driving force is that energy is not going to get cheaper. It’s going to get more expensive, so we want to make the house as energy-efficient as possible. We decided to get the fossil fuel usage down by using a geothermal heating and cooling system, and to use LED (light-emitting diode) lighting instead of traditional incandescents. We want to get all the loads down as low as possible.”

To this homeowner, that means using technology. “Just because you’re living a green lifestyle doesn’t mean you don’t want some of the technology and services available today,” says J. Paul Hughes of the home’s custom electronics pros, HomeBase Systems of Lincroft, N.J. “There’s no reduction in the work or the gear, it’s just more wisely chosen.”

The homeowners are shooting for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum designation, and here’s how green technology is helping them achieve that goal:

Light Sensing Tied to a CentraLite lighting control system, security and motion sensors will shut the lights off when no one is in a room.

Load Shedding Vacancy sensors will detect when no one is present and cut power to select devices so they won’t consume electricity in their standby states. (Many electronics still use electricity when they’re off because of phantom or “vampire” power.) Eighteen electrical sockets will be wired to cut all power to the devices plugged into them, thereby curbing these “vampire” power drains and saving energy.

Energy Monitoring The Energy Detective (TED) will be wired to the electrical panel to read the homeowners’ energy consumption, and deliver that information to a Microsoft Windows-based Lifeware system, which will also function as a home control interface for lighting, audio/video, security and heating and ventilation.

Resource Conservation Instead of loading up on a bunch of wall-mounted touchpanels, the home will have one LCD touchpanel, some CentraLite lighting keypads, and use iPhones and iPod touches to control the systems.

Wiring for Tomorrow Insulated concrete forms in the basement help insulate the home, but don’t provide much room for wiring—and the top floors of the house have blown-in insulation that the owners aren’t going to want to cut through later. To preclude potential wiring hassles in the future, HomeBase Systems loaded up on extra Category 5 high-speed data wire and ran Category 6 gigabit cabling to all potential media locations. Plenty of conduit was also installed to support easy wiring updates.

J.Paul Hughes of HomeBase Systems stands with the home’s insulated piping for its geothermal heating and cooling system (above), and sorts data, control, speaker and power wires coming into a TV location for a home entertainment system (below).

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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.

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