Control Systems Turn Project Home Green

Wireless control systems monitor the lavish A/V equipment and keep this green home from burning energy.


The family room includes a complete home theater system, featuring a 60-inch Pioneer Elite Kuro TV, a Pioneer Blu-ray disc player, a Denon surround-sound receiver, a Sony 400-disc DVD changer and a Control4 media center.

For more than 20 years, Steve Hunter has been designing and installing advanced electronic systems into homes. He thought he had seen and done it all—until he got a phone call from Control4. It seems that some products from Control4’s line of home control systems had been chosen to be part of a huge green home project to take place in Brentwood, CA. As one of Control4’s leading dealers in Southern California, Hunter and his company, The Hunter Group, were given the opportunity to outfit a 4,000-square-foot home with a complete Control4 system that would help the future owners use their energy more efficiently.

New Concepts
As Hunter soon discovered, this would be no ordinary job. The entire home would be constructed off-site by an innovative green home developer, LivingHomes of Santa Monica, CA. Eleven individual modules would be prefabricated at a factory then shipped to the site where they would be connected to create a unique, modular—and green—living environment. “Nearly all the wiring was done off-site,” says Hunter. Not wiring, exactly, but a highway of flexible conduit that would run from the planned location of the central Control4 control processor to various areas of the home. This off-site “wiring” work, in addition to a product lineup that changed “almost daily,” according to Hunter, kept him and his team of designers and installers on their toes.

After the 11 pieces were joined together, Hunter and his crew could start installing the electronics. Unlike most of the jobs his company had done in the past, though, this one would consist of mostly wireless components. “Cutting into the structure to run additional wiring would have jeopardized its energy-efficient design, so we had to really think outside the box,” Hunter says. It turns out, not too far outside the box. Control4 carries its own line of wireless thermostats and dimmer switches, which helped ease Hunter into the world of wireless. “My theory has always been to use hardwired products whenever possible for better reliability,” Hunter explains. “This was the first project where we would have to utilize wireless products almost exclusively.” Although Hunter is an advocate for hardwired systems, he felt confident switching over to Control4’s wireless portfolio of products. The thermostat, dimmers and switches planned for the home would be able to receive commands from the home’s central Control4 processor via a extremely robust wireless transmission technology called ZigBee.

Green Components
The type of signals the processor would transmit would be completely up to Hunter. Using special software, he created several energy-saving routines for the house to follow. There’s one that lowers the motorized window shades if the temperature of a particular room goes above a certain set point. Wireless motion sensors help regulate the temperature, too. If a room has been unoccupied for more than an hour, a sensor signals the Control4 processor to turn off the heat or air conditioning until somebody walks into the room again. Fifteen minutes of inactivity triggers the off switch on the Control4 dimmers, turning off the lights temporarily. Even when the lights are on, the house is saving energy. Nearly every fixture utilizes either an LED or compact fluorescent bulb, both of which consume significantly less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb.

Fun & Frugal
The energy-saving attributes of some of the other installed products are less obvious, but they prove that even small steps can make a big difference when it comes to living green. For example, a GE Concord security system provides all the fire and burglary protection of a standard security system, but it also controls some of the energy-hungry devices in the house. When armed, the system sweeps through the house turning off any TV, amplifier, A/V component and light as it activates the window sensors, and motion detectors automated turn-off routines keep the entertainment systems in check as well, and this home is loaded with A/V. A Control4 audio switch spreads music from an iPod docking station to 10 independent listening zones. Listeners can choose what they’d like to hear by pressing a few buttons on a wireless Control4 touchscreen.

This green home didn’t skimp on movies, either. The Hunter Group outfitted the family room with a complete home theater system, featuring a 60-inch Pioneer Elite Kuro flat-panel TV, a Pioneer Blu-ray disc player, a Denon surround-sound receiver, a Sony 400-disc DVD changer and a Control4 media center stuffed with digital music. All of the equipment was tucked away inside a special control room to help maintain clean, modern lines in the living spaces.

Buy Into Better Living
If the automated off command and green wiring weren’t enough, a web-based display technology from Lucid Design Group will give these entertainment enthusiasts a real-time view of just how much energy their A/V components are consuming. The Building Dashboard, which can be viewed on a computer screen, compares how much energy the home is producing through its SunPower solar panel system to how much energy is being used.

Combined with green materials, building techniques, furnishings and host of other innovative gadgets, the electronic systems integrated into this stylish, upscale green home helped it garner a Gold rating from the USGBC LEED for Homes Program. The home is currently on the market for $3.25 million. That may be a huge pill for most people to swallow, but LivingHomes anticipates that the home will use 36 percent less energy than a conventional residence of a similar size. That may be all the incentive one needs to buy into a greener, healthier, sustainable living environment.


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