The scene is a modern Manhattan penthouse. It spans two stories, is 5,900 square feet in size, and is on the market for a cool $16.5 million.
Not in my market, that’s for sure. And also not the kind of place where you expect to have any revelations in green technologies or energy efficiency.
The place was decked out in home technologies from Vantage and, from the company’s very high-end InFusion control system to wireless RadioLink lighting to parent company Legrand’s new airQast wireless speaker system. There’s also motorized shading from MechoShade, a Sharp Aquos Quattron TV and a patio with stunning view and colored LED light shows from a Color Kinetics system.
“We are trying to create experiences for homeowners that mean something for them,” says Andrew Wale, Vantage’s vice president of marketing.
That’s certainly a sentiment to live by if you’re in the business of selling home technologies. Then Wale says something very interesting: “Most homeowners are disappointed with technology.” Meaning that they buy gear for their homes and find that the latest and greatest high-tech systems are difficult to operate, or don’t work as advertised. Or the installation company never quite finished the job or went out of business or doesn’t service the system well.
“Simplicity is a big deal here,” Wale continues. “You should be able to walk through a space and see what to do,” to operate lights, audio/video and things like motorized shades from a touchpanel or other control.
Simplicity is not a new sentiment, either. It’s pretty much the holy grail of home control. You want your technophobic mother-in-law be able to turn on music or the lights without having to learn how.
Simplicity is also something companies like Vantage are striving for with energy-saving systems. Vantage’s own Energy Monitoring Solution offers up an intuitive and easy-to-understand interface showing energy usage and ways to control it. With the right programming, the system can even be set to turn devices off if you’ve exceeded a predetermined amount of electricity in a period.
We’re bound to see more and more of this kind of automatic energy-savings in the future—and not just from super high-end systems like those from Vantage and home control company Crestron.
In fact, we’re starting to see it in products sold at retail outlets like Best Buy. There’s the sleek and “sexy” Nest thermostat, developed by a former Apple executive, which makes setting and programming a thermostat so you’re both comfortable and use less energy easy, automatic and pleasing looking. It’s been hyped in the media as an iPod of thermostats, but with good reason. It’s sleek an modern looking and simple—and it has one button. Make it easy, right?
There’s the $50 modlet plug-in module from ThinkEco, which monitors the energy of a device and offers remote, wireless control of the device—as well as learning your usage patterns and offering helpful energy-saving suggestions.
And there’s EcoFactor software for smart thermostats that use the thermostat’s sensor, combined with home and local weather information, to read a home’s thermal characteristics and make many micro-adjustments to the thermostat’s set point to save energy while retaining the comfort of the home’s occupants.
Like good home control systems, energy management systems should run in the background and be virtually invisible to the homeowners—until we need it to do something. All the while offering comfort, convenience, and energy savings. And that’s when the energy management “experience” will mean something to people.