HTA Update - 06/27/2008 (Plain Text Version)
In this issue:
Energy Management: The Eco-Amenity of Choice
Energy Management is comprised of computer-aided tools used to monitor, control, and optimize the performance of technology used within a building.—Wikipedia
According to the 2007 Annual Energy Outlook conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. demand for electricity is expected to increase by 40% within 25 years, requiring at least 300 additional power plants to assume the increased load.
As demonstrated in the current U.S. economy, energy prices are directly tied into the supply and demand model, so as demand outstrips supply, prices are likely to continue to increase in the future.
The NAHB’s new Model Green Home Building Guidelines are indications that builders are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of reducing energy use; however, that is only half of the picture.
Electronic systems contractors (ESCs) fill the other half of the puzzle by making homes more energy efficient through installation and integration of home control systems, including energy management systems and by providing products and services with environmental sustainability, smaller carbon footprints and renewable resources in mind.
In today’s world of steadily increasing costs for everything from gas to groceries to electricity, buyers need to know they can save money from a reliable source. They are not only looking for aesthetic “eco-amenities” such as bamboo flooring, low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paint and sustainable materials, but also “energy amenities"—features that permanently lower the energy bill.
With average U.S. residential electricity prices expected to increase roughly 3.7 percent in 2008 and by an additional 3.6 percent in 2009 according to EIA, builders should become more informed about the energy management amenities available to pass on to consumers as options.
“Now is the time to consider all of the options,” commented Michael Tangora, President of Tangora Technologies, a 25-year industry veteran and CEA TechHome member. “In the current residential market, it is difficult to differentiate one builder from the next. Excess inventory clouds the minds of buyers and most are just looking for the best deal. Don’t lose business by not offering energy management options, as they are growing increasingly important.”
Tangora stated that nearly half of household energy use is consumed by the HVAC system.
“Knowing that energy consumption and the resultant cost is top of mind for everyone these days should make this a natural conversation starter when it comes time to discuss options with the new home buyer,” said Tangora. “A natural place to start is with the HVAC system, specifically discussion of programmable thermostats and zoning.”
A high seasonal energy efficient ratio (SEER) rating on an HVAC unit is directly related to the energy efficiency of the product; however when paired with both a programmable thermostat and zoning options, the energy savings is even greater.
Thomas Pickral, Jr., Director of Business Development at Home Automation, Inc. (HAI) agreed. “Programmable communicating thermostats can save the homebuyer up to 10% of their HVAC electricity and gas usage.”
One step further, a communicating thermostat can be linked directly into a home control system to make real time adjustments. For instance, a homeowner can then use a touch screen to reduce energy use while on vacation or at work. A growing trend in energy-
“Some utilities are even working with builders and homeowners to help promote energy management,” said Pickral, Jr. “In Louisiana, there is a current pilot program operating under the name Cleco Touch Program.
With this program, the utility company is utilizing programmable thermostats set up to communicate directly with the electric meter, displaying current rate of use and cost. This program puts the homeowner in charge of their energy usage by making them aware of their usage patterns. The thermostat can be set to respond to peak demand defense, only allowing the systems to run for shortened periods of time.”
More builders are leaning toward a zoning system for energy efficiency. Through the use of multiple heating/cooling zones, or a zoned damper system, a home can be heated or cooled depending on occupancy in a specific area or zone, reducing the reliance on just one unit. This can save money as well as extend the life of the unit(s) for the homeowner by eliminating the need to heat or cool rooms that are unoccupied.
Both Tangora and Pickral suggested lighting control as an additional energy management option. Home lighting accounts for approximately 15% of monthly electricity bills. Versatile lighting control options offer both aesthetically pleasing ambiance as well as energy conservation opportunities. From dimmers to whole home lighting control schemes to added security, lighting control is an option that has many levels. Each level puts energy management at the fingertips of the homebuyer.
According to the Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study conducted by the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA), six out of ten homebuilders offer automated lighting controls; however, only about one in ten builders are proactively marketing lighting controls to buyers, according to the same study.
“Although Compact Flourescent Light (CFLs) are being heavily marketed to the end-consumer, they are a short-sighted solution to energy management,” stated Pickral, Jr. “With lighting control options becoming ever more affordable, and proof of their energy management capabilities emerging, consumers are more readily adopting lighting control for new homes.”
In the custom building market, there is a growing trend toward incorporating various levels of intelligence into homes. Although certainly not all custom homes are fully automated, builders consistently include the above energy management options of programmable thermostats and lighting control in conjunction with other optional energy efficient upgrades as well that could be tied together for the ultimate in energy management and control.
For instance, occupancy sensors can be utilized to eliminate human oversight by automatically turning on/off lights depending on occupancy in the room, photo sensors can automatically turn on in absence of other light (ie: nightlight) and photovoltaic panels can harness the sun’s energy to generate your own electricity.
Although these added options do up the cost of the total energy management system, they can provide homeowners with detailed feedback about their energy consumption and control their energy usage through a home control system on a touch panel or even remotely via the internet.
Tangora noted, “The larger the home, the more important energy management becomes. To offset the utility cost of an especially large property, more home buyers are approaching us to include energy saving technology measures.”
To reduce the cost of many energy-efficient upgrades such as solar, ENERGY STAR® appliances, insulation upgrades and metal roofs, the Federal Government, the individual states and Local Utilities offer incentives and rebate programs to both builders and the homebuyer. Visit http://www.dsireusa.org for up-to-date details on available programs.
Lesley Boyd is from Orlando, FL. She offers an objective and unique perspective on up-and-coming technology, applications and integration in the CE arena. CEA TechHome Division is unique in that it represents the entire channel for home control and networking products including integrators, distributors and manufacturers. She can be reached at LesleyABoyd@gmail.com.
For more information or to contact us directly, please visit www.NAHB.org | ©2008, National Association of Home Builders