Green Technology - Lighting, Shade and HVAC control
Save Energy with Green Technology:
Last time I talked about designing a dedicated theater room that maximized audio and video performance while on a reasonable budget; this month I will be dedicating to “Green Technology” including Lutron’s Radio Ra2 wireless lighting control and Sivoia QS automated shade systems as well as discussiong on Solar panels, LED, CFL and low voltage lighting and energy management systems and opportunities.
These technologies have always been great for reducing energy costs and improving the look and feel of one’s home…but they were usually limited to a small number of people who could afford them and who were either building or remodeling. The newest generation of products are more flexible, outperform older technologies and include features such as LED dimming compatibility at a fraction of the cost and without the hassle of having to run wires to a centralized system.
Lutron Radio Ra2 Lighting Control
Lutron released their Radio Ra2 retro-fittable wireless lighting control system about 2 years ago and have continued to grow their product assortment which now includes wall dimmers and keypads (that can replace your existing switches and are available in 30 standard colors), plug in lamp dimmers, occupancy/vacancy and light sensors (which can be used to initiate certain sequences) and a free iPad app to control and monitor everything from home or away. The system can also be used to integrate control of their Sivoia QS wireless shades and Thermostat products allowing you to maximize your energy savings.
The system is designed around a main processor which acts as a wireless repeater operating on the robust 433 MHz frequency using Lutron’s patented clear connect communication protocol and has built in programming logic and an astronomical time clock allowing it to know when the sun rises and sets and can turn lights on or off accordingly based on your preferences. The system can also be programmed to have many customized ‘scenes’ such as movie, bedtime or entertain. It also has a special feature called vacation mode where the system can save and play back in sequence your house holds previous 2 weeks of lighting patterns so your home seems lived in when you’re away.
Lutron Radio Ra2 Intelligent Thermostats
Lutron just released a series of new HVAC monitoring and control products that integrate with their Radio Ra2 suite of products to aid in the management of a home’s environment. They offer 2 types of Thermostats that integrate with most heating and cooling equipment, one is a more traditional LCD backlit touchpad designed in concert with Honeywell and the other is a discrete designer friendly unit that fits a standard 1 gang ‘Decora’ style wall plate. Units can be hardwired or used remotely/wirelessly through a Radio Ra2 wireless master controller…and when used in concert with a Radio Ra2 system, can be programmed to initiate a sequence of events based on parameters set in advance such as if the “temperature is above 75 degrees between 1-5pm” then “lower or tilt the shades on the south side of the property”
Lutron Sivoia QS Shades
Lutron’s automated shades have been an interior design favorite for many years as they pioneered the silent shade motor and offer a variety of unique solutions from horizontal shades for skylights and sunrooms to Venetian blinds with intelligent tilt alignment to maximize light or shade at any installed location depending on the time of day or year to vertical drapes as well as a host of traditional cellular and roller shades. In addition, they now offer a wireless battery powered cellular shading option for windows 14”x14” to 96”x96” ranging in price from about 150-1500 depending on size, fabric, features and control.
With regards to control, Lutron shades can be controlled directly with on wall controls, can be integrated with a compact hand held IR or RF controller or as part of a larger Lutron lighting control system…additionally, they integrate very well into custom 3rd party home automation/control systems from RTI, Savant, AMX and Crestron.
Looking to save more money on your monthly electric bill? Add a few solar panels and you’ll be able to successfully limit or potentially eliminate your need for power from the grid (and depending on your situation may even be able to sell green power back to your electric company). Adding a Solar panel array is not your standard DIY type of project however and there are very real dangers when working with a high voltage system and banks of batteries. We (at Madrona Digital) have an on staff certified Solar Energy Consultant and are licensed to design, sell and install these systems.
The largest drawback to adding a solar power system is the upfront cost of panels and the banks of batteries required to store your energy as well as the efficiency of power generation (average estimated breakeven times are usually between 15-20 years but the payback time has been steadily decreasing). Many might think that in the northwest with our cool temperatures and 200+ days of rain or cloud cover that power generation maybe tough. In reality we live in a great climate as much of the energy put off by the sun still makes it to ground level and can be captured by panels that are properly aligned to track the suns movements. In addition, during the summer months our temperatures generally stay below 90 degrees allowing the panels to remain in their peak operating range where as when the temperature increases over 90 degree’s their efficiencies become drastically reduced.
Low Voltage Lighting General:
For those looking to remodel or building a new home and wanting the latest and greatest in lighting fixtures there are a few things you should know before you buy. The general category of low voltage lighting includes any light fixture or system that includes a high (120v) to low (generally less the 21v) voltage converter or transformer (these may be designated as electronic – ELV or magnetic – MLV) and may be done independently at each bulb location or for multiple lights connected to one main unit. Low voltage lighting can be broken down into functional design groups such as rope/tape, track, pendant and compact can light categories allowing you the flexibility to customize and highlight your space in many ways.
Traditional low voltage lighting was pretty basic (normally used for outdoor landscape lights) and used small incandescent bulbs. Today we’ve mostly transitioned into Halogen, CFL and LED light bulbs allowing for greater efficiency, light output and color spectrum options.
Halogen, Fluorescent (CFL) and LED Bulbs - Dimming:
Fluorescent lighting has been around a while and is something you should be familiar with in their 2 most common forms. There are tube styles (in sizes roughly 18” to 8’ long) and the Compact Fluorescent Bulb (CFL) designed as a direct replacement for normal incandescent bulb fixtures. The negatives of CFL’s are that they usually take a while to warm up to a proper brightness level, have a less then flattering color spectrum and frequently have issues being dimmed…on the flip side they are a fairly simple and economical way to save some money on your lighting costs though my recommendation is to pass on them (except in commercial spaces).
Halogen bulbs are another option and are what we normally recommend (in conjunction with a MLV or ELV transformer) when designing a lighting system for a home as they offer the best comprise for aesthetics, directional output/skew, energy efficiencies and flexibility of dimming. The main drawback is that they are generally not a direct replacement for traditional incandescent fixtures and can’t be used in rope/tape light situations.
LED bulbs and lighting systems have become the biggest hot button in recent years offering unparalleled bulb life potential (up to 100,000 hours of lamp life), maximum energy efficiency and the ability to tweak the color output with RGB LED’s (independent red, green, and blue lights). The other thing that sets LED lighting apart from the rest is the compact size of the light itself allowing for many unique installations such as under counter tape (flat strip) light that is easy to hide. With as good as LED’s are, there are still some significant challenges with a product still in its infancy; the biggest challenge we’ve run across is that not all LED bulbs/fixtures are created equal and many can’t easily be dimmed. Additionally their directional light output is still exceedingly narrow for many traditional implementations.
So, what should you do if you want to save some money on your electrical bill? Stick with incandescent bulbs with dimmers set to 80 or 90%, or upgrade to halogen lighting fixtures with dimmers. If you must use LED and/or have applications where rope/tape light make the most sense, there are a few sites that have lists of low voltage fixtures that are dimmable (we recommend using Lutron’s approved bulb list or product tool).
Want to know more???
Contact me today at 425 922 8145 and schedule a time to check out some of these technologies at our showroom or to schedule a complimentary in home consult. I look forward to hearing from you today…made it this far? The first 10 people to contact me and schedule a consult or showroom visit will receive $100 store credit (call for specifics).
Valid on product sale with installation/programming, $200 product minimum + $150 labor; now through 9/30/2012 – reference BLGREEN15