Using energy efficiency as a sales tool
With talk of energy costs skyrocketing in the very near future, there’s never been a more relevant time for installers to use this to their advantage. Harry Simidis explains.
Energy efficiency and conservation are two current issues that rate highly on the list of many modern home owners. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as it can present an opportunity for custom installers to step back, take a holistic view of the separate systems in a home and investigate how to use them as efficiently as possible.
This article uses a recent real life project to explain why it is important to ensure that different products are ‘inter-linked’ together, as this will help create the perfect environment for those living in the home.
We were recently approached by a home owner who wanted to build a modest but stunning home in one of Sydney’s northern suburbs. The owner was firm from the onset about minimising his new home’s impact on the environment and ultimately saving money on energy costs. After much research, he decided that a lighting control system would manage many of his new home’s facilities such as air conditioning, motorised window shutters and floor heating, not to mention the use of LED and fluorescent lights.
Hydronic floor heating was chosen to provide warmth in the floor slabs of areas such as bathrooms and ensuites. It‘s normal for such systems to deliver around 15% energy savings alone and this increases to around 40% when condensing boilers and solar heating are used.
In addition, the chosen system had the capability of a temperature ‘set-back’ which allowed it to automatically lower its set-point temperature by about 5°C during the night, or very early morning, to save energy. As this temperature set-back needed to be triggered by an external input, it was connected to the lighting control system which managed it according to its inherent timer scheduling capabilities. This was implemented in the lighting control system scheduler.
Air conditioning was another aspect that the owner wanted to address. The requirement was simple: to close all motorised window shutters when the air conditioning system was heating or cooling the home. Fortunately, most quality air conditioning systems provide some form of status feedback to indicate when the compressor is working. Although this information may not always be in a readily usable format, with some improvisation, there is usually a way around that.
In this instance, the compressor resided in the pathway running along the outside of the home. As this request was made after construction, it was first necessary to run some cabling from the compressor back to the distribution board. Then we needed to convert this 240V status into a dry contact in order for the lighting control system to use it as an input.
The net result was that whenever the system was switched on, the lighting control system triggered all the window shutters to close. This had the flow-on effect of heating and cooling the home more efficiently and in turn, saved energy and reduced the electricity bill. To achieve this, we used a simple Omron isolation relay which converted the 240V status signal.
A further requirement was for the motorised louvre awning to open at a certain time every morning so that sunlight was allowed through to the plants below. This activity had the added benefit of allowing sunshine in the colder months to naturally heat up the adjoining family rooms, as opposed to the reverse cycle air-conditioner. The awning’s proprietary rain sensor kicked in even if the slightest of precipitation was detected, also sheltering the multi-use games area below.
We wanted to ensure that every aspect of this home could operate in the most efficient manner possible, including the security system. This resulted in a ‘Goodbye’ mode that feigned occupancy when activated, by dimming lights throughout the home at different times and at lower levels, as opposed to lights remaining on indefinitely.
Furthermore, this scenario could disable all of the automatic floor heating schedules and reactivate them when the owner pressed the ‘Welcome’ button after returning home. A schedule was then implemented using the lighting control system’s inherent real time scheduling ability.
It would be unfair to say that we got everything right the first time. Fine tuning tends to be an iterative process and there is also a time frame to allow the owners to ‘grow into’ their system. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that this home now operates optimally, uses energy efficiently and will save the owner thousands of dollars over time.
Furthermore, the owners are now well equipped to face the rising costs of energy and are content in the knowledge that their home is future proofed.