R.I. Home Project Showcases Designs on Energy Saving


An innovative energy monitoring system and other green technologies help make this 'Green Life Smart Life' home more sustainable

Nov. 16, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Building a house can be a major stress-inducer. There are almost always setbacks, cost overruns and other unexpected angina producers. Stir in the prospect of building green, and those setbacks can become lengthy delays, cost overruns can become major budget busters, and the angina—well, let’s not even think about that.

Despite the dangers, Kimberly Lancaster and Joe Hageman have bravely waded into green home building—even incorporating home technologies to make their soon-to-be completed coastal Rhode Island home as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible (click here to view slideshow).

The 4,400-square-foot residence will be managed by a home control system that uses an innovative energy monitor to enable the homeowners to see how much power they’re using. A lighting control system, meanwhile, will be in charge of dimming the home’s energy-efficient and long-lasting LEDs (light emitting diodes). Vampire or standby power used by appliances and electronics when they are “off” will be curbed automatically. Various sensors will cut the juice to other devices whenever a room is unoccupied. 

So far, at least, the implementation of those green technology has gone smoothly. (At press time the home’s walls were being plastered, so many of the electronic systems had only been planned for and wired.) But careful coordination and communication with the home’s custom electronics professional, Jeff Mitchell of Carolina, R.I.-based Robert Saglio Audio Video Design, made the process much less stressful. 

Let the Games Begin
After buying the property in 2005, Lancaster and Hageman looked to retrofit an existing structure, but encountered lots of those angina-inducing moments—in this case 2-by-3-inch wall construction and mold in the insulation. A retrofit wasn’t worth it, so the couple opted to demolish the structure and build new. That’s when they decided to go green. “We were working on our design plans, and I have a personal interest in sustainability,” says Lancaster, who is the president and founder of Caster Communications, a public relations firm. “As a family we had become more conscious of materials and organic eating. Plus, Caster has a growing interest to see where green building was going.”

The decision was made not only to build a home green and use green technology, but to apply for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-Home certification. As of August, the home had been under construction for 12 months, including the drilling of a 1,000-foot-deep well for the house’s geothermal system, which will provide all of the home’s heat, cooling, and heat for hot water.

The geothermal system will earn points toward LEED certification, as will building with a variety of sustainable products, from synthetic slate roofing tiles to reclaimed wide-plank hardwood floors to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified cedar shingles—as well as a rainwater harvesting and irrigation system.
But incorporating green technologies that can drastically reduce the energy usage in the house? That earns just one to two points in LEED. Lancaster and Hageman are actually going to apply for two points, for energy management of HVAC, temperature and zone control and energy monitoring.

Green Technology
The green tech features in this house actually start with the wiring. By using a centrally located utility room for all of the home-run wiring connections, Mitchell estimates he is saving 80 feet for each of the 62 wiring runs. In addition, the Leviton and Coleman Cable wiring bundles have been minimized to fit the exact cable requirements.

A Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system will dim the house’s 70 recessed LEDs to 85 percent, which is hardly noticeable. That will save an estimated 7,730 kilowatt hours of electricity over traditional 65-watt incandescent light bulbs and 791 kWh over 26-watt CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps). The Lutron system will also be programmed to cut power to high-energy appliances. The refrigerator, for example, will shut off from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m.—which won’t spoil the food. The system also features automatic controls from motion, occupancy and vacancy sensors, magnetic door switches, and even a sensor buried below the driveway.

In addition, an Energy Star-rated Essentia whole-house audio system from NuVo Technologies will spread music throughout the house (two Essentia 6-zone systems will be required for the home’s 12 audio zones). The Essentia E6G is Energy Star-rated for using less than 1 watt while in standby, or off, mode.
But the piece de resistance of this high-tech green home is the innovative energy monitoring system from Control4. The system reads the energy data from the home’s meter and relays it via wireless ZigBee protocol to a controller. With appliances such as the refrigerator plugged into sensing modules and other electronics on the network, the controller can see what is turned on and when, read the total power usage of the home and determine which electric loads are causing power drains.

With that information, the system can provide an hour-by-hour breakdown of all the devices on the network, the lighting system, and electricity used to power the geothermal heat pumps—and display that information on the screen of a touchpanel or a connected TV. The Control4 system can then manage those energy loads by having the Lutron system cut power to devices or dim the lights.

Lancaster, Hageman and their children will also use Lutron’s “Green” button, which reduces energy consumption with a single button press by dimming the lights to a preset level—say, less than 85 percent.

“I think technology is going to be a key to living efficiently,” says Lancaster. “Ultimately it’s our communication with the house that will determine how smart and efficient our home can be. And if we can offset the energy we might add because of an entertainment system, that’s helpful.”

Systems Design and Installation
Robert Saglio A-V Design
Carolina, R.I.

Merchant Construction
Narragansett, R.I.

Control System/Energy Monitoring: Control4
Lighting Control: Lutron
Multiroom Audio: NuVo Technologies
Media Server: Niveus
Wiring: Leviton
Central Vacuum: H-P Products

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