You’ve heard the expression “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”? The same applies to energy management: there’s way more than one way to sell it. Because few us remember to do things like set our thermostats or turn off the lights to be more efficient, many electronic manufacturers are building energy saving functions into both housewide systems and individual products. Sell those, and you’re selling energy management in some form or another.
By incorporating energy management into products, manufacturers are making it easier for your clients to be more efficient at home—and without them even trying. You could call it a new age in energy automation. Everything from home control, motorized shading systems, power conditioners and even powerful amplifiers are becoming hidden energy managers. More obvious energy devices like thermostats and smart plugs are being integrated into larger systems.
These products go way beyond the energy-saving features found in TVs and even some video projectors—by actually managing, controlling and sometimes monitoring our energy usage and by shutting off devices when they’re no longer in use. Here are just a few spotted last week at the CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) Expo in Indianapolis.
Touchpanels Show Energy Widget
High-end lighting and home control company Vantage’s new Equinox line of LCD touchpanels (also pictured above) provides a cool-looking, user-customizable set-up, but it also makes monitoring and managing your energy use sleek and easy. An Energy Widget allow users to dig down to see energy consumption of the whole home and all devices on the Vantage network—and make adjustments to dim lights or turn off products based on energy usage. The system can also show gas and water monitoring as well. The light-switch-size Equinox 4 without widgets will be available in November, the larger Equinox 7 touchpanel in December and the Equinox 4UX with widgets in March. IPad control of the interface is available as well.
Motorized shades defray energy costs by being raised to let in sun in and heat a space in the winter and lowered to keep cooler in the summer and reduce air conditioning needs. Lutron goes one step further with its affordable battery-powered motorized cellular shades that start at $299 each. The honeycombed-shaped shades are effective insulators by creating a layer of air between the fabric membranes. The latest Lutron honeycomb shades also feature cable guides to prevent shades from swaying. The cable guides can be especially useful in French doors, areas of heavy airflow and in skylights. They should be available in January 2013.
Thermostat Doubles as A/V Controller
Apple-based home control company Savant is adding to its energy management capabilities with a thermostat that has a similar look and feel to its lighting control keypads. The thermostats can even control lighting and A/V via a small LCD readout— and contain humidstats for humidity control. One very cool aspect is separate control of set temperatures by sliding and pinching on a touchscreen like an iPad. An eight-zone central processing unit can be connected to thermostats and ganged to provide many zones of control, and can be connected to in-wall sensors to keep a thermostat-free look.
Crestron Does Shading
Users of high-end Crestron automation systems can now add energy-saving motorized shades to their whole-house A/V, lighting and automation systems. Crestron offers Architectural, Decor (contempo look where you see the roller), and Designer Cassette (shading built into a housing) series, in roller and Roman shades and drapery tracks. The motors use Crestron’s low-voltage Quiet Motor Technology. Users can reprogram the levels the shades descend to.
Smart Plugs for BlueBolt
Panamax’s BlueBolt system that allows remote monitoring and control of products plugged into IP-addressable power conditioners will expand to plug-level monitoring throughout the house with the addition of smart plug-in modules and a gateway. The MD2-ZB plug-in module has two outlets and status lights so electronics not mounted in a central rack can be monitored via ZigBee wireless RF technology. The $100 module works with a BB-ZB1 gateway (also $100) that transmits and receives signals from the modules and is connected to a home’s networked router.
Energy Savings through Power Protection
When power conditioners and power protection devices that stabilize electricity for your electronics are combined with Internet connectivity or IP (Internet Protocol), you can have a powerful energy management and control system. SurgeX’s new line of Axess products do just that. The Axess Elite ($1,829) features outlet-level energy management and control, with two-way communication that monitors and manages energy usage. You can schedule components to shut down if they’re using too much energy. Remote rebooting of components is also possible. For more basic needs, Axess and Axess Ready products including the XF-2AR surge protector/power conditioner ($599) are available.
Energy management in high-performance amps? It’s possible. The Acurus 2-channel A2002 ($2,500), 5-channel A2005 ($3,500) and 7-channel A2007 ($4,000) amps pump out 200 watts per channel and have Ethernet ports for Internet connectivity. The IP (Internet Protocol) networking compatibility enables remote monitoring and shutting down the amps if they get too hot. Maker Indy Audio Labs says with a new preamp next year, individual channels can be disabled when not in use.
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