Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Can Electronics Help You ‘Green’ Your Building?

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Green Life Smart Life (GLSL) model house with its owners (inlay) Joe and Kimberly Hageman
Green Life Smart Life (GLSL) model house with its owners (inlay) Joe and Kimberly Hageman

MAY 2010: Joe and Kimberly Hageman enjoy incredible views of Narragansett Bay and the Newport Bridge from their home. They also enjoy technology. They built the ‘Green Life Smart Life’ (GLSL) model house to convince themselves that a techie life-style and a green home could co-exist. What they realised is that technology is not only capable of co-existing but also enhancing a green lifestyle.

The team that designed the house reviewed every electronic device in the house in terms of annual wattage, load requirements and integration with other subsystems. The home was structurally wired for state-of-the-art whole-house video, music, lighting, security and Internet. Using a centralised entertainment equipment room, they reduced the wiring needs by over 50 per cent. The wiring system received platinum rating from the Consumer Electronics Association’s TechHome Rating System. The design was also submitted to the US Green Building Council for consideration as a LEED-H Innovation & Design point for Green Wiring.

GLSL is all you could dream about in terms of technology: overall home control, energy management and entertainment. They used the Control4 operating system to consolidate and automate lighting, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning (HVAC), security, climate control, etc. The Control4 platform uses a ZigBee-enabled device to bridge data from the utility meter to the home control system.

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Their energy management solution enables them to power-down high-energy-consuming appliances when they aren’t in use and schedule down-times for maximum efficiency. It also has single-button trigger solutions for easy programming of sequenced power on and off scenarios throughout the home, including a ‘green’ mode. Add to this a communication system to monitor feedback from all electricity loads in the house with real-time analysis of usage and savings; occupancy, temperature, magnetic and timed sensors; as well as a self-activated ‘away’ mode setting that takes over when there is nobody in the house.

One of the key features of this home is the Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system that is programmed to include a high-end trim of 85 per cent for every connected light in the house, and features automatic control of motion and occupancy sensors. The occupants manage their ‘all-home music’ via the NuVo Essentia E6G—the first and currently only whole-home audio system with an Energy Star rating.

In addition, the house has a zillion enviable tech features including automated locks and flat panels mounted with components made of recycled materials. Remember, this is a model home project—but not merely a project—a real home that people live in, and hence undeniable proof of the potential of technology in green buildings.
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Smart grids: A smart turn for India”]

A smart grid is typically a collection of smart devices and applications applied to the electricity grid to provide real-time information about the performance of the grid. This information allows the service provider (utility) to make smarter and faster decisions in order to improve productivity and power management. When extended to the customers, it enables ‘demand-side’ management—and a green home. That is, it equips customers with the information required to understand and control their power consumption, thereby helping to reduce the footprint of each household!

Last year, North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) engaged GE to implement a smart grid focused on power outage management. The smart grid solution would help to maximise the system’s uptime, while also helping NDPL to quickly restore power to homes and businesses in the event of an outage. This delivery optimisation would improve reliability, and also reduce losses, thanks to better visibility and management.

While the current project is aimed more at power outages, demand-side management is also planned as part of the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (RAPDRP). If implemented over time, it would have a blanket effect, enabling several buildings to become green by simple power management!

Another interesting technology was announced by GE last year, in the context of the smart grid—the zero net-energy home project, through which GE will show that it is possible to build houses that produce as much energy as they consume, at just 10 per cent additional cost. The model will use GE’s technologies and smart appliances for generating, storing and managing energy. Connected to a smart grid, the house will be in a position to not just buy power from the grid but also sell excess solar energy!


How green is my valley?
“‘Green’ is an often-used term these days. Green is, broadly, anything that is environment-friendly. It is used to popularise energy-saving practices in daily life without sacrificing the quality of life. There are two sides to this statement. One, the consumption of less energy through better efficiency, thereby reducing the production levels, and the other, the production of energy in an environment-friendly manner. Both these aspects put together will almost guarantee smaller carbon footprint,” says Ramprasad Ananthaswamy, director-power management products, Texas Instruments India.

There are several ways in which a building can be made green—right from the design, the materials used and methods of construction to the technologies (design tools, sensors, smart meters, temperature controls and timers, lighting systems, energy management solutions, etc) built into it. On another plane, the occupants of an existing building can also add to the green hue by adopting energy-efficient gadgets and appliances, harvesting rainwater and so on.


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