It’s cool to control your A/V, lighting and security systems from a TV screen. But have you ever seen high-efficiency boilers and electrically heated windows monitored like that?
Larry Winkler, owner of the famous Sculptured House, featured in a recent slide show on ElectronicHouse.com, can do just that in his Star Trek-inspired command center/utility room. One side of the utility room has four wall-mounted LED TVs and a captain’s chair, while the back displays the mechanical systems and an artistic array of plumbing and color-coded conduit.
When Winkler realized the iconic, futuristic house was losing more than 60 percent of its heat every hour, the spaceship-shaped home got a heating system and efficiency makeover, including more insulation and a new boiler system. Two wall-mounted Lochinvar Knight WBN series boilers service 11 zones of high-temperature forced hot water heat, four zones of in-floor radiant heating and a snow melt system on the driveway.
The boilers are modulating, sealed and combustible, meaning they adjust their firing temperatures based on factors like the outside air temperature, so a boiler isn’t firing full-blast when it doesn’t need to. This boosts energy efficiency.
On one of the utility room’s LED TVs, Winkler can view boiler temperature, outside temperature, domestic hot water temperature and see graphs with minute-by minute data—and even reprogram the boiler set points if desired. The boilers are able to do this with on-board computers that record the data, connected via USB repeaters to a Windows-based PC in the rack and containing the manufacturer’s software, which can be viewed on the LED TV.
Some of the windows in the home were huge energy leaks as well, so they were replaced with electrically heated triple-pane windows from Energized Glass. Their set points and on and off times can be programmed on screen in the command center as well. Communication occurs wirelessly via a dongle on the rack’s PC that sends radio signals to the windows’ built in power modules.
HVAC professional Mark Eatherton of Mark Eatherton & Associates in Denver installed the systems and expects the home to see energy consumption reductions of up to 30 to 40 percent this winter, based on all the energy improvements.
Comfort and efficiency aren’t the only winter comforts to come to the Sculptured House. As soon as it starts snowing, Winkler can turn on the snow melt system from his smartphone.
Winkler also hired Vision Systems of Aurora, Colo., which handled the home’s previous electronic updates a decade ago, to reprise its role and add systems for a new multiscreen command center, upgrade the Lutron lighting system, install LED lighting and include a house-wide Elan g! control system to bring the once-futuristic dwelling solidly into the 21st century.
The new Sculptured House uses iPads, iPhones and Elan’s TS2 4-inch in-wall touchscreens to operate eight TVs, six audio zones, 13 climate zones, an HAI security system, a bunch of stationary and PTZ (pan, tilt zoom) IC Realtime surveillance cameras both inside and outside the home, plus more than 100 Lutron HomeWorks QS lighting loads.
Ron Winne and Jeff Kirkham from Vision Systems helped Winkler design the command center for the utility room, which borrows from the aesthetics of the Starship Enterprise. Winkler can sit in the captain’s chair like Kirk or Picard and view his various home systems and camera feeds on the four 65-inch LED TVs. One TV is for the Elan g! interface, showing lighting, security and heating controls. Another is for viewing split-screen feeds from the home’s several security cameras via a DVR. The third is to watch TV or other media. And the last one is set up as computer control for the heating system, electrically heated windows and boiler operation. Two high-efficiency boilers are installed in the back of the room, with pipes mounted artistically on a wall of diamond-plate steel.
LED lights in the Star Trek-like command center are used to make the subterranean lair even more futuristic looking.
Vision System’s Kirkham says the company is looking into using an energy monitoring system, which would show on one of the four TVs in the Enterprise-like command center. Winkler plans to use automated monitoring to control electrical energy usage and having systems in the home operate in the lowest cost per kilowatt price, via smart grid-tied services.
The house-wide control system and new technologies incorporated into the home already make it more efficient, Winkler says. “Because you can dial in on any operating system, you are more apt to turn off lights, media, heat in unused living spaces. You only use energy in the rooms you are in and make them comfortable,” he says.
That kind of future is coming to a lot of homes.
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