May 03, 2010
by Steven Castle
When can building an 1,800-square-foot addition create an opportunity to save? When you’re John and Elaine Poppe of western Ohio and you opt for an energy-saving lighting system as part of the project.
(Click here to view additional photos.)
“Elaine was big into the energy savings,” says R.L. (Ric) Johnson of Elite Systems in Lima, Ohio. “We replaced nearly 90 percent of the existing lights with CFL or LED fixtures.”
Johnson’s crew didn’t use the garden-variety compact fluorescents available at retail outlets, though. They searched for high-quality dimmable and controllable CFLs for many of the rooms. Even some of the dimmable CFLs that are available turn off when you dim them 40 percent, Johnson explains, so the company opted for higher-quality Philips lamps which can be dimmed to about 70 percent before turning off.
The dimmable CFLs are controlled by an HAI (Home Automation Inc.) control system over UPB (Universal Powerline Bus), which operates over the house’s electrical powerline. “John gets up at night, hits a button, and some lights come on to about 40 percent,” says Johnson.
Not all of the CFLs in the Poppe residence are dimmable, however. Some hallway and closet lights, for example, are either all on or all off. Elite Systems also added LED light strips in the Poppes’ new home theater and under-the-counter LEDs in the kitchen. The lighting system and energy-saving lamps have cut lighting use by about 15 percent, Johnson estimates, though true savings won’t be known until the end of this year.
The lighting system was just one part of the extensive project that consisted of a new garage, a first-floor bedroom, an elevator and a modest home theater system—as well as an electronics retrofit in the existing 3,300-square-foot space. The Poppes added the HAI control system for operating the lights and an electric in-floor radiant heating system. The system also affords them with a sense of security. The Poppes each have a keyfob to arm and disarm the security sensors from their cars, and if a garage door is left opened, the HAI touchscreens will flash an alert.
The Poppes also use the HAI system to monitor access to John’s in-house legal office. The system alerts them whenever an employee uses a keycard to enter John’s office, for example. The phone system was also upgraded to an Avaya IP system with multiple lines. This allows John to access his business line from any phone in the house.
Adding the control network to the older part of the house, originally built in the 1800s with plaster and lath walls, proved a big challenge. For example, Elite Systems had to figure out the best way to install an HAI touchpanel in the wall near the old front door. The solution was to enlarge the space for the door and rebuild the areas around the doorjambs with materials that were more amenable to a built-in touchpanel.
In addition, Elite Systems provided a solution to Elaine’s extensive front-yard Christmas light display, adding 200-amp service and separating it into zones so one part can be on at a time. The company also synched in the Poppes’ landscape lighting so that they don’t conflict with the Christmas lights.
One of the next steps for the Poppes? Add a couple of ZigBee-based HAI OmniStat thermostats so they can monitor their energy use.
You don’t need motorized window treatments to do “daylight harvesting,” or in other words, using natural light to illuminate your home. The Poppes have extensive wooden blinds that could not be easily motorized, so the custom electronics (CE) pros at Elite Systems added some photo sensors to control the lights, instead. When the sensors detect an ample amount of light entering a room, they signal an HAI home control system, which instructs the lights in that space to either shut off or dim. “It’s like a photocell that works in reverse,” says Johnson of Elite Systems.
Some more expensive daylight harvesting systems often detect light from outside and open or close motorized drapes, shades or blinds accordingly.
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