Greening the Home Through Technology

Green building is becoming more common as construction processes evolve and consumer demand for green homes increases. There’s a significant awareness of the impact man has on the environment through our mode of everyday living.

Environmental concerns and theories open many opportunities for the design/build firm. Those contractors and partners who are educated and savvy in respect to offering environmentally friendly products have created a revenue stream of significant proportion.

Speaking from experience, my Electronic Systems Contracting firm has been providing scalable services that impact the residential environment for more than 10 years. Most of the technology directly deals with management and economization, and plenty of technology solutions exist for today’s green home.

One of the core products the ESC provides is a home automation control system. This technology controls lighting, HVAC, window treatments and other subsystems including audio/video. It accomplishes this task by providing a universal house-wide control platform. Consider the impact a system like this can have over time on a home from both an economic and environmental perspective.

The key to the economical use of a home automation system is the configuration that allows for a single button push that directs a string of processes. A single button push could lower the home’s temperature, dim the lights, and raise or lower window shades. All of these functions create an economical means of controlling energy use.

Integrating control of the heating and air-conditioning systems offers a substantial means of lowering the consumption of energy. For example, in most homes a thermostat maintains a constant temperature throughout the day regardless of outside conditions. Perhaps the temperature inside can respond to the outside temperature. HVAC systems can be zoned, and accurate control can become exponentially important to the green movement.

Through the utilization of a home automation system the user can touch one button to send a preprogrammed command to set the temperature and humidity levels for the day. In addition, this command can be accomplished automatically by programming temperature changes through the use of the system’s clock.

Another often overlooked element of energy control is the use of window treatments. Many homes have multiple blinds, shades and draperies that often are left in the open or shut position throughout the day. By adding a motorized and controllable feature, a substantial energy savings can be realized.

Lighting control systems have been available for quite some time. These systems can either be utilized in conjunction with a home automation system or can stand alone. The primary functions are to provide dimming control and to allow the creation of different zones and scenes. Dimming alone is a simple yet significant method by which to lower energy use at non-critical times. Using scenes and zones can create economy by minimizing and controlling lights in areas only when they are needed.

Home automation is becoming more accepted as a standard home technology. Prices are descending from what was once cost prohibitive to broad affordability. There are new applications being developed on a regular basis that will accommodate a green lifestyle and provide energy management and savings. Stay in touch through this evolution by forming and maintaining a relationship with your local ESC. He or she can provide you with the most current solutions for your design/build projects.

Andy Willcox is past president and founding member of CEDIA. Willcox is actively involved with outreach programs that deliver CEDIA expertise and value to other trade associations. He has 15 years in the custom electronics industry and has taught courses at venues throughout the country. Willcox is president of ProLine Integrated Systems, a company with locations in Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. ProLine is involved in high-end audio/video, home theater and residential systems integration. Willcox can be reached at