Think about it: You spend a fortune building a massive slope-side vacation home in Utah, complete with a home control system, lighting control system and a snow melt system—only to have your electrical contractor come back two years later to rig about $60,000 worth of energy-saving improvements.
“Everything about the project was big,” says Mark McGuinness of Chesley Electric in Park City, Utah, of this 16,500-square-foot home that recently won lighting company Lutron’s Excellence Award for Best Green Project. “The service at 1,200 amps [most homes have 100- or 200-amp service] was the biggest we had done at the time. A nine-panel Lutron system with 78 SeeTouch keypads was also the biggest we had ever done.”
Unfortunately, all that “big” resulted in big energy bills—about $5,000 a month. The homeowner surely wanted to save money, but McGuinness says he’s also well known in the community and wanted to be environmentally conscious. (Click here to view a slideshow of more photos.)
What to do? Chesley focused on two areas: lighting and the snow melt system, the latter of which was ramping up the utility bills during the winter months. “And the Lutron system gave us all the equipment we needed to dramatically reduce his power consumption,” McGuinness says. The result: a savings of 76,000 kilowatts of power, or about $19,500 a year—and that’s just during the five winter months when the house is occupied.
The lighting system fix was relatively straightforward. Chesley replaced all the system’s halogen lighting, inside and out, with LEDs (light emitting diodes) from LED Power. And while that “upgraded” the system, it drastically “downgraded” the amount of energy used in the house.
A total of 26,348 watts reduction, or about 90 percent energy savings, was achieved by changing 300 MR16-type lamps, 186 recessed outdoor PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) lamps, and 1,000 decorative festoon bulbs to LEDs (See “Lighting Before and After” sidebar).
But just adding LED bulbs in a dimmable lighting control system is not an easy trick. Many LEDs are made differently, and the lighting control system has to be able to work with the lamp’s electronic driver. LEDs are, after all, pieces of solid-state electronics. That often means that some can be dimmed by a system, but others cannot. In this case, the Lutron HomeWorks system is able to dim the 300 or so MR16 lights, but not the recessed PAR lamps. So Chesley programmed the lighting control system to shut off the PAR lamps during certain dimmable scenes. For example, in the kitchen, when a SOFT scene button is pressed, the MR16s over the cabinets dim, and the six receding PAR lamps shut off.
Interestingly, Lutron now has a module that recognizes the small loads to dim such lamps, but McGuinness says that was not a part of the system originally installed.
The 65 PAR lamps outside don’t dim, either, but are controlled by a clock to turn on and off automatically.
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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