News / Media

The Importance of Being Illuminated

Published Feb 23, 2012 By KARYN ELLIOTT

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A lighting design practice integrates the arts, sciences and business of illumination design and implementation far beyond concerns of visibility. Putting the enhancement of beauty aside for a moment, in the average home, 25 percent of all the electricity we use is for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs and stereos.

One-half of that is wasted by inefficient lighting sources or careless consumers. Residential has long been the ugly duckling of lighting design, it has been incandescent-based and completely unsophisticated for decades.

It’s not about buying expensive light fittings; it’s about having quality in your living space. It’s not always the case that where the money’s being spent is where the best design happens. Thoughtful lighting design can play a crucial role when it comes to the comfort, quality and energy efficiency of your home’s lighting.

Here are a few principals of home lighting. First, get a certified lighting designer involved. No matter how much you take the following suggestions and points to heart you will want a qualified professional to assist you in implementing them.

The most important thing to realize is that human visual performance depends as much on the quality of light in a home as it does on the quantity of light.

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Posted by chantal Fri, 09 Mar 2012 17:37:00 GMT

High tech and high class. How luxury hotels are embracing technology


Turn up the music, turn down the lights, and start a movie – with the swipe of a finger. Here’s how high-tech room controls are making your next luxury hotel room classier than ever.

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Technology is an important part of the home, and what better way for hoteliers to make guests feel at home than to provide them with state-of-the-art technological amenities? We are talking about a deeper level of connectivity than a simple iPod dock, or a reliable Internet connection in your hotel room. The trend in luxury hotels across the globe is a simple touchscreenwith an easy-to-use graphic user interface that can control all your room’s amenities, such as lighting, air conditioning, TV, movies,and music. These systems also have the capability to handle communication with the front desk, housekeeping, concierge, and checkout. The modern hotel also offers staff facility-wide monitoring and management capabilities.

In fact, most of the major control companies are already entrenched in the hotel market, from Control4 to Crestron and Apple. Needless to say, hoteliers are jumping on the control bandwagon, which is the“wow” amenity of the moment that puts luxury hotels a cut above.

Inspiration from across the street

At the legendary Plaza in New York City, Manhattan’s iconic NYC Apple Store sits just across the street. When the Apple iPad came out, the hotel’s general manager, Shane Krige, walked across the street and purchased a few to put in the hotel lobby for guests to play with. Once the Plaza team saw everything the device was capable of, they put an iPad in every room.

Guests are greeted with a personalized welcome screen and a video from Krige explaining ICE, the Interactive Customer Experience.Once acquainted,you can control the room temperature or set lights at various levels from 100 percent to completely off. You can send messages to the front desk, request toothpaste from housekeeping, or ask the concierge for a restaurant reservation. Guests can arrange transportation or learn about the hotel, which just underwent a $450 million renovation. You can even check airlines and print boarding passes. A mobile ICE app in the works will be downloadable from the Plaza’s website, allowing you to do all these things before you even arrive.

The room that knows you’re there

Across the sea in Sydney Harbour, Australia, the Star Hotel & Casino offers complete guest control in its 174 luxury suites.Guests get on-screen control of the television, IBAHN Video-on-Demand system, lighting and temperature, a Philips Dynalite lighting control system, a wireless thermostat, Samsung LED 3D TV, Bose Cinemate music system, and more. A Control4 system acts as the backbone, allowing simple control with a straightforward interface.

The suites all feature a button labeled “Leaving Room” by the entry door that automatically places the suite in an energy-saving mode: With a single touch, it closes blinds, turns off lights and dials back air conditioners for energy savings. Should you forget to press this on your way out, after 30 minutes the system will sense there is no one and trigger the button automatically. Upon return your room will greet you by opening curtains, turning on the lights and displaying a welcome message. “Door Ajar” and “Privacy” notification pops up on the TV so you know you are safe and won’t be bothered by the hotel staff.

The greener side of high-tech

At the Montage Deer Valley mountain resort in Park City, Utah, 154 deluxe guest rooms and 66 suites are equipped with a similar Control4 Hospitality Solution that lets guests control lighting,temperature, the fireplace, entertainment, privacy settings and energy-saving features. Hotel guests can enjoy theses effortless tech amenities while the hotel industry – known for its oversize environmental footprint — can reduce negative impact.

Crestron is also doing interesting things in the hotel industry, and has installed control systems in some of the world’s top hotel chains, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Four Seasons, and Starwood Properties.

“Hotels are using more technology to enable a higher level of service,” says Crestron’s director of hospitality, Michael Stegmann. “The modern hotel standard presents new challenges to manage and integrate it all.”

Crestron’s Hospitality solution is up to the challenge, monitoring and managing centralized AV sources and lighting controls for all areas of a hotel from a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device and a local Crestron touch screen. As with Control4 systems, Crestron’s offers a number of ways to cut back on electricity consumption, from dimming systems to occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting. In-room amenities, including security, AV, and HVAC are standard. The environmentally minded Gateway Canyon Resort in Gateway, Colorado, for example, uses a Crestron system to control hotel-wide functions, including the Kiva Lodge, a 38-room hotel with fitness center, spa, café and pool area. The Crestron CP2E system controls AV and background music distribution throughout the lodge. Wall-mount touch screens and keypadsadorn the luxury space for walk-up, one-touch control.

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Posted by chantal Mon, 05 Mar 2012 17:10:00 GMT

Home Automation

Will home automation become something that we can’t imagine living without? Jeff Wilson takes us on a tour of a design showroom that highlights some of the time- and energy-saving benefits of automation.

Wed Feb 15 2012 Written by Jeff Wilson

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Home automation sounds a little intimidating. Just the mention makes me think of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek – seamless integration of controls for everything from lighting and sound to heating and air-conditioning to security and energy-efficiency. Oh, and don’t forget to set those phasers to stun.

Ten years ago, the only kind of home automation I’d heard of was “the Clapper,” which I didn’t think I’d have any use for until I was old enough to fall and not be able to get back up. Times have changed, though, as I learned during my recent visit to the Crestron Design Showroom in New York City – Crestron is an automation company well known in commercial building for their very high quality and attention to detail. Bryan Celli, the Design Showroom Manager, gave me a tour of the Crestron facility in the Decoration and Design Building in Manhattan.

According to Celli, Crestron has helped office towers and hotel chains to manage their energy use more efficiently by automating simple tasks like lighting and HVAC. When you check into a hotel, for example, the heat is turned up automatically and the lights are turned on so that when you reach your room, it’s warm and inviting. Until you got there, however, the lights were off and the room was cold. Pretty smart. With such large buildings, the large, up-front costs are easily offset by the energy savings over time.

It used to be that automation solutions for homes were far too expensive, and most companies that dabbled in home automation only tackled one aspect, like lighting or audio and video. Homeowners who dished out the cash to put in these early systems soon found themselves with five remotes for different systems that couldn’t “talk” to each other because they were made by different manufacturers. That resulted in cobbled-together systems that didn’t really work as intended.

Enter Crestron – this company employs an army of engineers to make sure that all aspects of their system work together effortlessly, and it uses technology like touchscreen controls to make using the systems intuitive.

They even have apps (and docking stations) for your tablet or smart phone, so you can (for example) unlock the door for the plumber while you’re at work (and lock it again when he leaves and know how long he was in the house) or set the thermostat lower at home when you’re on vacation. But that’s just the beginning.

From a convenience standpoint, imagine tapping one icon marked “Movie Time” and having the lights dim, the motorized shades lower, and the home entertainment system boot up. Then, from that same control, sort through the movies on your home server and start the show (I’m sure automated popcorn is in the works). Tap an icon that says “Goodnight,” and the lights turn off, shades drop, all doors lock, and the security system is armed. Another icon marked “Dinner Party” brings down the lights a bit and brings up your favorite Ella Fitzgerald collection at just the right listening level. “Have to get up in the middle of the night?” Celli asks, motioning to small downlights mounted in the walls about a foot off the floor. “These will come on automatically, giving you some light to get down the hall, and then shut off again when you’re back in bed.” For me, that would mean no more stubbed toes at 3 AM. Pretty nice.

From an energy-efficiency standpoint, Crestron’s systems can be customized to control your heat and air conditioning, as well as automated shades in the windows, to help minimize your energy use. Shades can drop in the windows on the sunny south side of the house in the summer to keep the solar energy from heating the house and stressing the air conditioning. Lights can be automated so that they’re turned off in rooms without occupants. Rather than cluttering the walls with thermostats, a single thermostat controller can be mounted in a closet, and small, inconspicuous temperature sensors can be mounted in different parts of the house to help control a multi-zone HVAC system. Energy use can be closely watched through Crestron’s Energy Monitoring interface so that you’re aware of where you’re wasting energy and can adjust your habits accordingly.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:26:00 GMT

Xbox, Lights. Solar Powered House Uses Kinect for Smart Control

by Jeff Kleist at January 26, 2012 3:33 pm

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SCI-Arc and Caltech have designed the Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype (CHIP) Solar house in a successful bid to win the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathalon. Featuring 45 solar panels on the roof, the domicile can generate up to three times its energy requirements, enough power to charge two electric cars on top of keeping everything running.

Currently on display at the California Science Center, one of CHIP’s secret weapons in power savings is the Xbox Kinect, which is integrated into the home automation system. Those who prefer manual control can use gestures to turn off lights, or raise and lower shades. Less engaged individuals are tracked by the Kinect camera, and the system cuts the juice to areas that are not occupied, or takes other smart measures to ensure efficiency.

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Posted by chantal Fri, 17 Feb 2012 17:24:00 GMT

Crestron to Introduce Fusion EM Energy Management Software at ISE 2012

Crestron Press Release January 24, 2012

Energy Management: Where Concept Meets Reality

Energy management is a hot topic of discussion among businesses, government organizations, and homeowners, and essential to saving energy and significantly lowering operational costs for an organization. At ISE 2012 in Amsterdam, Crestron will introduce its breakthrough new Fusion EM™ (Energy Management) software, a completely integrated enterprise-wide energy management solution for any size organization.

The concept of energy monitoring and management software that can track power consumption in a room or building and generate data for analysis to reduce costs has garnered much attention and enthusiasm. Crestron is turning this concept into a reality, bringing to market a tangible solution for corporations, government organizations, schools, hotels, hospitals, and more. Available March 1st, the Crestron Fusion EM™ (Energy Management) software revolutionizes the way organizations control every aspect of their day-to-day operations.

Fusion EM is part of the Crestron Fusion Global Enterprise Management platform. The Fusion database, running on a central server, provides the foundation to run different software applications based on organizational needs. Organizations can choose Fusion EM to monitor and track environmental systems and energy usage, and Fusion RV™ software to manage, monitor and control AV presentation and video conference technologies. The Fusion Global Enterprise Management platform provides network access to any device or system throughout the global enterprise.

About Fusion EM Energy Management Software Analyze energy consumption, turn lights on or off, set actions for when a room is occupied, adjust heating/cooling set points, and edit demand response settings.

Early Adopters Select companies have been using Crestron Fusion EM since November 2011. A mid-sized consumer packing goods organization wanted to enhance its operational efficiencies and sustainability programs through energy management deployed globally throughout its entire facility, consisting of multiple sites and locations. Fusion EM offered the opportunity to not only track energy usage, but also the control systems and tools to easily reduce and manage consumption by room, building and global enterprise.

About Fusion RV Remote Asset Management Software For a more robust and comprehensive enterprise management solution, add Crestron Fusion RV (RoomView). Fusion RV provides real-time room status, tracks maintenance requirements for AV devices such as projectors, automates end-of-day shutdown, books meetings in rooms, and provides remote help desk assistance.

Posted by chantal Wed, 15 Feb 2012 17:20:00 GMT

Smart Grid in Your Home

Smartenit plug-in device delivers a home’s energy info to ZigBee or Insteon home area networks.

December 20, 2011 by Steven Castle

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Say you want to manage the electricity usage in your home to save energy and money. Should you wait for your local utility to roll out “smart grid” programs that might allow you to do that—or do you invest in a potentially expensive energy management/home control system?

Affordable alternatives are becoming available. Smartenit, formerly known as SimpleHomeNet, has introduced a ZBPCM device that can take the energy usage info from an electrical meter and populate it to a wireless ZigBee-based or Insteon home area network. The ZBPCM plugs into an electrical outlet and receives a wireless signal from a Blue Line Innovations’ low-cost PowerCost Monitor sensor, which attaches to the meter to read the energy usage. The ZBPCM then passes that signal on to a ZigBee-based radio frequency (RF) mesh network or Insteon’s dual RF/powerline network.

The companies call getting real time energy information from an electric meter into a home control network “the missing piece of the energy management puzzle.” Other, typically more expensive options include energy monitoring systems that attach to a home’s circuit panel to read total or circuit-based energy usage.

“Having energy consumption information available is only the first part of the equation. A more important aspect is to have that information automatically generate actions for more impact to consumers, their bottom line and the environment,” says Al Choperena, president of Smartenit.

With energy info on their networks, consumers can customize parameters to allow for automated responses that will save energy. Smartenit also manufactures ZigBee plugs and load controllers that report energy usage to provide deeper layers of energy management capability.

This data from the meter or smart plugs is then displayed over dashboards for the customer’s viewing. Armed with all this information, consumers can then set very specific parameters as to when energy adjustments are to be automatically executed, truly smartening their environment. They can track, monitor and control their usage from devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers.

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Posted by chantal Tue, 07 Feb 2012 17:33:00 GMT

Audio Impact and SDGE team up for Energy Innovation Center

Audio Impact is proud to announce their partnership with SDG&E on an energy efficient smart home. SDG&E recently unveiled their Energy Innovation Center, featuring a Smart Home inside . The Smart Home was designed by Audio Impact and features Control4 Energy Management. The home features a Control4 EC-100 with onscreen TV display of the current energy being used in the home, as well as how much the projected costs are. The Control4 system is operated via and in-wall 7” touchscreen and with iPads, using the Control4 app. Some of the other features include a motorized Mechoshade and Eragy Smart Home monitoring of each individual device’s energy consumption. Tours are giving by SDG&E daily and one can experience all the offerings of today’s affordable and efficient home technology.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 01 Feb 2012 21:04:00 GMT

SDGE Unveils Energy Innovation Center in San Diego

Audio Impact, Inc. was proud to partner up with SDG&E in the design and installation of the Green Smart Home in their new Energy Innovation Center.

Energy resource center will help customers find the most cost-effective and energy-efficient solutions for their home or business

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SAN DIEGO, Jan. 18, 2012 – /PRNewswire/ – Today, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) introduced its new Energy Innovation Center (the Center), a showcase facility where residential and business customers can learn about energy efficiency, alternative fuel transportation, Smart Grid, and clean generation.

The Energy Innovation Center offers an array of seminars on energy efficiency; classes in the food service demonstration kitchen; tours of the Smart Home full of energy-saving technology; information in the resource library, and guided tours of the water-wise walkway which showcases drought tolerant plants that save water and energy.

“The Energy Innovation Center will be a valuable resource for the community,” said Hal D. Snyder, vice president of customer solutions for SDG&E. “We are committed to helping southern California reach a more sustainable energy future and the Center will provide businesses and residential customers with the tools and resources they need to make smart energy decisions to be more energy efficient, save money, and help the environment.”

In December 2010, SDG&E began construction on an existing 27,000-square-foot building and focused on designing and constructing a facility that is designed to meet U.S. Green Building Council’s Platinum LEED certificate, the highest level of certification for energy-efficient buildings. In order to meet the LEED platinum certification, SDG&E was required to incorporate the latest sustainable design elements in the Center’s design. Some of the sustainable elements of the Center include:

85 percent of the original building’s materials were reused or recycled. The roof will have a rain water collection unit that stores water used for the Center’s irrigation system. The state-of-the-art Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning (HVAC) system has sensors that shut off the A/C when the windows are open. The solar panels heat the Center’s water and help offset the building’s energy use by 34 percent. Most of the items seen in the Center are made from recycled materials, including the carpet which is made from recycled tires. The Center showcases different examples of highly efficient lighting, HVAC units and leading technologies to demonstrate the choices available for businesses and design professionals to incorporate into their buildings. Many of the program offerings and design features are the result of a collaborative approach with community-based organizations, local businesses and other key stakeholders and technology sponsors.

Key features that customers can experience at the Center include:

Smart Home experience tours;

Sustainability tours;

Interactive kiosks, displays and resource library;

Solar Trees® in parking areas that provide both shade for your car and power for the region;

Water-wise walkway with drought-tolerant landscape demonstrations;

Produce Demonstration Garden;

Food Service Demonstration Kitchen.

A key component of the Center is the full commercial Food Service Demonstration Kitchen that boosts numerous energy efficient appliances that introduce new features to the food service world that saves energy and saves money for chefs, restaurant owners and facility managers with food service kitchens. At the Energy Innovation Center, chefs will have the opportunity to utilize the demonstration kitchen to test their recipes on energy efficient equipment to ensure that the updated appliances work well with their dishes.

“The San Diego County Chapter of the California Restaurant Association commends San Diego Gas & Electric on the opening of their new Energy Innovation Center,” Chris Duggan, director of local government affairs for the California Restaurant Association. “This state-of-the-art facility will provide our industry professionals the opportunity to experience cutting-edge technologies and utilize educational resources that will increase energy efficiency and environmental leadership.

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Posted by chantal Mon, 23 Jan 2012 22:32:00 GMT

An iPod Thermostat to Change the World?

Attractive and easy-to-use Nest thermostat is getting some advance buzz.

October 27, 2011 | by Steven Castle

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Can cool looks and ease of use help us save energy in our homes?

If the web buzz generated this week by the Nest thermostat—which isn’t even available yet—is any indication, the answer is yes.

Nest has a lot going for it. First off, it’s very cool looking, with a pleasing round shape to replace those bulky thermostat boxes, an easy-to-read digital readout and even a little leaf symbol that appears when you’re being good about your energy use.

But perhaps the biggest things Nest has going for it is its Apple pedigree and ease of use. Nest Labs cofounder and CEO Tony Fadell is an ex-Apple executive dedicated to making a thermostat that’s simple to use and program.

Like an iPod, Nest basically has one button, or ring. You rotate the outer ring to adjust the temperature. The display turns blue when cooling and red when heating. Push down to open the menu.

Many people have programmable thermostats that allow programming temperature set points at various times of the day, but few actually program them. Nest says its thermostat can learn your heating and cooling patterns and suggest ways for you to be more energy-efficient. Oh, and if you want, it can be manually programmed for seven days with 20 set points per day.

Nest says the thermostat learns your personal schedule in a week and starts automatically turning down heating or cooling when you’re away to save energy.

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Posted by chantal Fri, 18 Nov 2011 17:21:00 GMT

Make a home smarter with automation systems

October 07, 2011

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Who wouldn’t like an extra set of hands around the house? Or some help with basic, everyday activities such as keeping your home comfortable? And if that extra help could also make your home more energy efficient, reducing your utility bills, wouldn’t that be an added bonus?

Home automation, once considered a luxury, is doing those tasks for more homeowners than ever before, and in ways that may surprise you. Many homeowners recognize the importance of saving energy, something that benefits the environment and their budgets. Three key areas of home automation that influence energy savings are window coverings, thermostats and lighting.

Heating and cooling accounts for the largest portion of a house’s overall energy use. Artificial lighting also contributes to home energy bills. Automating these areas of the home that consume the most energy allows users to improve energy efficiency.

Window coverings

You may think of your window treatments as more of a design statement, but window coverings, from blinds to shades, can help control the flow of sunlight into your home. In summer, drawing the blinds can help keep the interior of your home cooler. Opening window coverings when it’s cold outside in the winter can allow more warming sunlight to enter your home.

By automating your window coverings, you can better control the amount of light, and heat, entering your home, even when you’re not there. You can program an automation system to close window coverings after everyone has left the house for the day to help keep things cooler in the summer.

Or, in the winter, when many of us leave the house before the sun is up, an automation system can open window coverings to allow sunlight and warmth into the home after the sun rises.


Turning your thermostat back between 10 to 15 percent for eight hours a day can save you as much as 10 percent on your heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, Programmable thermostats allow you to automate temperature changes in your home.

In summer months, you can set the thermostat to allow the temperature in your home to rise higher so the air conditioning runs less when no one is there. The same technique can help reduce heating bills in the winter. By setting a programmable thermostat to change temperatures when needed, you can achieve more precise control over the temperature in your home without the risk of forgetting to set the thermostat back every time you leave the house.


Artificial light is another major energy user in households. Reducing electricity usage can be as simple as turning off lights you leave a room.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 09 Nov 2011 17:16:00 GMT