Derek presents to IBA Green Home Committee

The Indiana Builders Association (IBA) is dedicated to educating builders and others in the construction trades. The Green Building Committee actively pursues leading the way for Green initiatives, legislation, certification programs, and other ways to help create energy efficient, resource efficient, and ecologically-friendly Green homes.

Derek was a guest speaker at the IBA’s Green Building Committee meeting held Tuesday, August 25th. He discussed and answered questions about how smart home systems have a larger impact on total energy consumption of the home by gently affecting the behavior of the occupants and optimally operating the house.

The presentation transcript is available below:

About Derek Cowburn:
20yrs in advanced energy management for Pharmaceutical/Commercial industry. Started DistinctAV five years ago focusing on luxury home automation with services nationwide. Currently writing a book titled “Building from the inside out(TM)”.

Energy Savings:
The biggest energy consumer in the home is the people. A simple consumption meter will tell you that. Watch the energy consumption on an unoccupied house with all the lights, TVs, computers, hairdryers, and music off and the HVAC setback for unoccupied mode versus a vibrant home with kids playing and normal activities going on. A slight change in behavior has a bigger effect on energy use than all the efficiency improvements built-in.

For example, my 4-yr old son constantly leaves the doors open. He was obviously raised in a barn. On a comfortable Spring or Fall morning it’s not a big deal but on a muggy summer afternoon leaving the door open for more than a few seconds will suck the heat and moisture in like a sponge–making the HVAC run for another 30-60 minutes to compensate. This one action far outweighs any insulation and mechanical efficiency gains. Like most kids (and teenaged daughters, I hear) he leaves every light on and most TVs on in the house.

In an integrated smart home, the security system monitors the doors but it also knows the outside temperature and communicates with the thermostats, the audio system, and the data network. If the kids leave the door open when it’s comfortable out, the system tells the thermostats to stay off. This way you don’t pay to cool or heat the outdoors and you can enjoy the fresh air. If the outside conditions are too hot or cold, it makes a polite announcement over the audio system to “close the doors”. Touch a panel to tell it to ignore or simply close the doors and it will re-enable the temperature controls through the stats.

Gas fireplaces often fight with the HVAC systems. People buy the fireplace remotes from the fireplace manufacturer but it is it’s own temperature loop and the HVAC has it’s own control loop with the thermostat so invariably the room has huge, uncomfortable, and costly temperature swings. Tie the fireplace start circuit into the automation and it keeps them coordinated.

2-way status of the TVs in the house when you’re making a selection on the remotes (that control everything in the house) let’s you see which TVs are on–and how long they’ve been on. It’s a gentle reminder that you may not need the other 4 TVs on at the moment so click-click–they’re off without the need to walk into the other rooms.

Lighting controls are a combination of energy savings and luxury. Title 24 is a start by requiring occupancy sensors, dimmers, and high efficiency lighting, but ultimately, a smart and thorough lighting plan and control system will provide energy savings and a better looking environment.

Smart Home Prerequisites:
Prewire-prewire-prewire. I understand that builders are in the business of building new homes, but I feel that people often upgrade because their house is “dull”. There’s a comment that I hear often and it almost makes me sick to think of the waste produced by this kind of thinking: They’ll say “we weren’t planning on living here long but in the next house we build we’ll definitely put in all those smart home things we really want”. If you’re a spec builder or want a reputation for building homes with a plan for the future, prewire appropriately. It’s the only positive return on investment in home electronics other than energy management solutions. Current trends show that buyers in the $500k+ range are looking very closely at amenities, long-term value, and technology capability.

Smart Home Offer:
I’m offering an opportunity to get extra attention, P.R., and as many manufacturer co-ops as possible for a project that is interesting enough and could win a national “green home” award. The house should be holistic from a design/living perspective and interesting with a good story behind it. An owner/builder willing to do some “HGTV-style” interviews/candid video would be ideal but not critical. The actual energy consumption of the house will be remotely monitored and trended using our client monitoring services so you can demonstrate the savings and show real results.