Friday, September 11, 2009

Home Automation Goes Green

by Dan Merrill, President
Suretechs, Inc.
ASID Industry Partner

Technology-savvy homeowners are beginning to see the benefits of using home automation to help save energy by shutting off unnecessary lighting loads, regulating HVAC systems in homes more effectively and automatically controlling solar gain by utilizing motorized blinds and draperies.

These systems can be programmed to shut lights off at certain times, shut off electrical components that aren’t being used, regulate temperatures throughout the house, open and close motorized shades and windows, and even cut power to electronics so they don’t use wasteful standby power (vampire loads).

Automated window shades can save up to 10 percent in energy costs. The automation can be based on time, via an astronomical clock, as well as the amount of light and heat in the room. So if it’s too hot in a room, the shades close, keeping a room cool in the summer months; conversely, the shades will open to warm the room with sunshine in the winter or illuminate it with natural light.

Lighting control can automate lights so they come on when you need them and go off when you don’t. Lights can be programmed to turn on and off at the appropriate time of day and year in order to reduce waste. A typical 3-bedroom home with a properly programmed lighting control system will eliminate over 850 pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

The system can be programmed to control the amount of wattage used by light bulbs, which not only saves electricity and reduces energy bills but extends the life of bulbs as well. For example, according to The Energy Conservation Enhancement Project at LSU, dimming your lights by just 10% will provide an energy savings of approximately 10%, and will extend bulb life 2x longer. However, dimming your lights by 75% provides a 60% energy savings, and bulbs last more than 20x as long.

Programmable occupancy sensors can trigger an “Energy Miser” scene which shuts off lights and reduces heating and air conditioning when family members leave the room. In addition, the scene shuts off electricity supply to the selected televisions, laser printers and personal computers to eliminate “vampire” energy loads.

Home automation used to be out of reach for the average homeowner, costing well in excess of $100,000 but recent advances in technology have driven the costs down considerably, averaging less than $25,000 in most cases. Custom programming also affects the overall budget so designers need to work with their electronics systems integrator to be very specific about the needs and wants of their clients to keep costs within their budget.

Dan Merrill is President of Suretechs, Inc., electronics systems designer and integrator of “Casa Futura”, Electronics House Magazine’s 2008 Green Home of the Year, Gold Level Winner. Suretechs is an ASID Industry Partner and a licensed electrical, low voltage and security contractor in California focusing on the custom home and commercial markets. Services include home automation, lighting control, structured wiring, security and CCTV surveillance systems, audio/video, home theater and surround sound systems. See more at, or call 619-770-7175.