News / Media

Inside a Green Housing Community

LEED-certified homes in ParkGate Reserve in The Woodlands come standard with Crestron control system that includes thermostats, three zones of lighting control and integration with a security system.

By Steven Castle, July 20, 2011

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Homebuilder Scott Frankel of Frankel Building Group in Houston understands the value of home automation, building energy-efficient homes that will last, and how the two work together.

“The key goal is to be sustainable and last a long time,” says Frankel. “Home automation is one real facet [of that sustainability]. Its fun. It’s neat. It’s cool.”

Frankel built 58 LEED-certified homes, priced at $800,000 and up, in a development called ParkGate Reserve in The Woodlands. Crestron home control systems, installed by Premier Technology Group, help the homeowners achieve efficiencies in lighting, heating and cooling systems and more.

Standard in every home in ParkGate Reserve is a basic Crestron home control system that includes thermostats, three zones of lighting control and integration with a security system. Crestron’s DIN-AP2 processor, designed for light to medium-sized applications, is used.

“People love this stuff,” says Frankel, who also includes an in-wall Crestron iPad dock in each home. “Everyone wants a cool remote but don’t want to pay a thousand bucks for it. Homeowners are able to tweak their house to their lifestyle without calling us out there. And they can get a system and they can learn to use in a day.”

Homeowners can also set back thermostats and control lights from a smartphone app. “A programmable thermostat works fine, but at same time you can grab your iPhone and control your settings when you’re not home,” says Frankel.

Expansion of the control system is not limited by wires. Crestron Extended Range RF wireless technology affords robust wireless communications over an impressive distance of approximately 100 to 200 feet indoors and up to 1,000 feet outdoors.

Homeowners can opt to upgrade to include audio/video distribution and other features. Electronics installation firm Premier Technology Group wires each home for a minimum of one surround-sound system and eight audio zones, including control wiring to eight audio keypads. Premier uses Crestron’s Prodigy system if a homeowner decides on an A/V upgrade.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 17 Aug 2011 16:16:00 GMT

Power House of Energy Efficiency

An Elan home control system and a 14-kW solar array help achieve record energy efficiencies.

June 09, 2011 by Steven Castle

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It’s one of the most energy-efficient and green homes in the United States, but some of its high-tech energy-saving features would not be possible without a full-blasted home control system from Elan Home Systems.

The “Power Haus” in Sarasota, Fla., claims the lowest HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score in the United States, a negative 22, which means the house produces more energy than it uses. (A score of zero means it produces all its own energy.) The house also scored 118 LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) points, making it one of the highest-scoring LEED homes in the country.

A large part of making the home so energy-efficient was the green building techniques of custom homebuilder Josh Wynne, president of Josh Wynne Construction. Wynne filled the walls with super-efficient foam insulation, coated the topside of the interior’s elegant tongue-and-groove ceiling with spray foam insulation and installed a Uni-Solar Flex-Lite solar array that covers more than half of the roof and produces 14.2 kilowatts of electricity. Because so much energy is produced, the homeowners can sell power back to their electrical company.

Efficiency Through Simplicity

Managing many of the home’s energy-saving systems, such as the LED (light emitting diode) lamps and the state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems is the IP-based ELAN g! Home Control System. The system also controls the security, surveillance, whole-house audio/video and pool and spa from the owner’s iPad, iPhones and Elan in-wall touchscreens.

The Elan system was installed by of Sarasota-based SmartHouse Integration and given the stamp of approval by builder Wynne. “Not all of my clients are super tech-savvy, and neither am I, so I like things that are simple and reliable,” said Wynne.

Wynne also knew that all the technology in the home needed to be tied together in a simple, convenient way for the homeowners to control and manage. “Simplicity was the key with the homeowners,” says SmartHouse Integration president Mark van den Broek.

Controlling Efficiencies

Important efficiencies are also gained by tying home systems together. The lighting, HVAC and security systems have occupancy sensing so when the owners arm the system and leave the house, the home goes into a low-energy “Away” mode. It’s like putting a computer to sleep, only you’re doing it to the whole house.

“You can tie the systems together, but we’re tuning it so they speak to each other and react to the programming we designed,” van den Broek says. “When the security talks to lighting system and the pool, and we write programs that make all that efficiency possible, that’s when it really, really starts to save energy.”

Even a dehumidification system—vital in Florida—is operated and automated by the Elan g! system. SmartHouse also provided the homeowners quick access to the Uni-Solar web portal where they can check on the solar system’s electricity production. This is available on the two Elan TS7 7-inch touchpanels and three TS2 2-inch in-wall touchpads. (They can view the solar system’s web portal via Internet on their iPad and two iPhones.) The owners also can check their own electricity consumption via the Elan g! system’s running history of the power used by everything on its network.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 20 Jul 2011 16:24:00 GMT

Inside Largest Elan g! Install Ever

A 10,000-square-foot Chicago home is equipped with an Elan g! system to control a home theater, security system, gym and more from nine touchpanel and two iPads.

By Lisa Montgomery, July 06, 2011

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There’s a lot you can do with a home control system. They are so smart and powerful you could probably automate a dog, if the client wanted you to.

The Elan g! system programmed by AudioVideo Specialists for this 10,000-square-foot suburban Chicago home, which claims to be the biggest Elan g! install ever, epitomizes the extent of a well-executed home control plan.

The house is packed with gear, including 11 flat-panel HDTVs, two of which are 3D TVs with LG 3D Blu-ray players and another that’s a 46-inch weatherproof SunBriteTV. Every TV can access four DirecTV boxes, two Sony 400-disc Blu-ray changers and eight surveillance cameras.

All of the systems can be monitored and managed via the homeowners’ three iPhones, two iPads, 12 Elan remotes, nine in-wall Elan touchpanels and a wireless Elan tablet.

A total of 54 speakers and seven subwoofers, as well as 12 outdoor speakers and two subwoofers throughout the house complement the video. Each listening space can receive music from a rack of centrally located equipment including a dual AM/FM tuner, a three-terabyte hard drive (enough space for 600,000 songs), two iPort tabletop iPod docking stations, Pandora Internet radio, XM Satellite Radio and feeds from the intercom system.

The icing on the A/V cake is a sophisticated home theater that features a 106-inch Screen Innovations motorized screen, a 7.2 surround-sound system and an Optoma video projector.

Massive Rack

The homeowner likes showing off the massive amount of gear required to keep all the home’s subsystems connected.

TV In Gym

The family exercise room includes a TV mounted on a mirror wall.

Dressing Room

Outside one of the bathrooms, a dressing area includes and installed flat-panel TV.

Double-shot Bar

The home bar is well stocked, even with two TVs.

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Posted by chantal Mon, 18 Jul 2011 17:50:00 GMT

Light Finally Shines on Motorized Shading

We talked about it 25 years ago, but truly automated shading is just coming into form.

June 30, 2011 by Steven Castle

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Oh, how far motorized window treatment systems have come. They used to be real convenience item for luxury homes—and were often one of the last things cut when affluent homeowners felt they had to scale back on their projects. They were luxury items for even the luxury set.

And the systems were largely standalone, meaning they weren’t often incorporated into other housewide control systems. Many motorized shading systems simply didn’t play well with others.

Yet in a very early issue of Electronic House (Sept./Oct., 1986), an advertisement for Home Run from Micromint of Vernon, Conn., declared: “Connect a photo electric sensor, and Home Run will turn lights off and on or open and close the drapes as the sun illuminates each room of the house.”

Yet … um … we are just getting to this today. Motorized shading systems are just being marketed to automatically open or close based upon how much light is coming into a room, to offset heating, cooling and lighting costs. Up until now, this was almost always done by tying the system to timers and hoping for the best.

“We did have products back then that could do that through daylight sensors and contact closures,” says David Weinstein, vice president of sales with Lutron Electronics, which is presently rolling out this technology in its RadioRA and HomeWorks lighting control systems.

But let’s face it. Sensors weren’t all that sophisticated and reliable then. And when they did work, there were programming challenges. For example, do the drapes or shades open every time the photo sensor detects a loss of light—then reopen when the sun comes out? At times, shades or drapes would be opening and closing by the minute.

That’s why it makes sense now to have that logic embedded in one system, so you don’t have disparate sensors, control systems and shading motors trying to communicate.

“Because of digital, today these systems can take into account latitude, longitude and the orientation of the building to the sun,” Weinstein says. “There’s also a simplicity of integration through common controls.”

Another thing that’s changed are homeowners’ perceptions. Motorized shading used to be a luxury for even luxury homes, and often reserved for those hard to reach windows or colossal banks of glass. Now, people are starting to realize that by opening and closing shades or drapes at the proper time, they can save on heating, cooling and even lighting costs.

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Posted by chantal Fri, 15 Jul 2011 16:29:00 GMT

Save Energy with Total Home Control

Published May 23, 2011 By HD Living

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With today’s new technology, saving energy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your lifestyle or conveniences. Lutron devices address a wide range of energy savings solutions such as lighting control, temperature and small appliance control. Here we’ll highlight some simple Lutron ideas that can help you save energy while adding ambiance, style, and convenience to your home. Choose from basic, advanced, or expandable solutions to create inviting spaces in one room, many rooms, or throughout your entire home.

Lutron Home Control+ App

Enjoy complete command of your system from your favorite armchair, or favorite vacation spot. The iPad® app. automatically displays keypads and devices already in your system and allows you to control them all in real time. A convenient Home Glance screen keeps your favorite keypad and devices in easy reach. The Energy page lets you save energy using the “Green” button.

Light Control – Dimming

Every time you dim the lights you save energy. Lutron has dimmers that work with all types of light sources, from incandescent and halogen to dimmable compact fluorescent (CFL) and dimmable LEDs. CFLs and LEDs already use less energy than standard bulbs, so dimming these highly efficient bulbs saves additional energy. Lutron offers C.L dimmers for stand-alone solutions or phase-adaptive dimmers and LED drivers for system solutions.

Light Control – Sensors

An occupancy/vacancy sensor is ideal for rooms where lights are often inadvertently on, such as a child’s room. Lutron also manufactures vacancy-only sensors to comply with California Title 24 requirements. Daylight sensors not only save energy, they provide that perfect balance of electric light and daylight making a room more inviting.

Daylight Control – Shades

You can control Lutron shades using keypads, IR remotes, or wireless tabletop controls. Automated shades make it easy to adjust shades based on the season, which can save 10-30% on heating and cooling costs.

New! Temperature Control

Temperature control can save up to 16% or more
on heating and cooling costs. Ideal for retrofit locations, Lutron seeTemp can be mounted in locations that would not normally be appropriate for a thermostat, such as exterior walls and sunny spaces. An accompanying wireless temperature sensor is what allows the temperature to be measured in the optimum locations.

Total Home Control


Add light control to a front entry and you’ll never have to walk into a dark home. With a wireless control, you can turn on lights before you even get out of your car. You don’t even have to turn your lights on full bright—you still have the option of dimming them, which saves energy. And if you dim compact fluorescents or LEDS with a dimmer designed specifically for these energy efficient light sources, you’ll save even more.


The kitchen often has plenty of windows, so it’s an ideal room for daylight control. A daylight sensor orchestrates the perfect balance of electric light and daylight by dimming lights and adjusting automated shades based on the amount of daylight entering the room.

Family Room

A family room is the perfect area for appliance control. Use the plug-in appliance module to avoid wasting energy when electronics aren’t in use. You can turn off standby power from a wireless control or it can be turned off automatically when you leave a room via an occupancy/vacancy sensor.

Master Suite

Installing temperature control in the master bedroom means you can conveniently lower a room’s temperature at night. And a simple press of the “All off” button ensures all your house lights are off. In addition, automated shades help lower cooling costs in summer and heating costs in winter.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 29 Jun 2011 16:14:00 GMT

Control4 Helps Make HGTV Green Home Efficient

2011 HGTV Green Home includes Control4 automation, controlled by a customized iPad, and The Energy Detective monitoring system.

By Arlen Schweiger June 02, 2011

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HGTV is clearly starting to “get” the custom electronics industry.

Perhaps the most influential information tool these days for homebuyers (those who now must have granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and an “open and airy” floor plan), the network has added some high-tech spice to its most recent home giveaways.

Earlier this year, the network gave away its annual HGTV Dream Home, built in the very green state of Vermont, which featured Lutron lighting and shade controls for the 3,400-square-foot space.

Along with a Dream Home, HGTV also has a Green Home sweepstakes (entries close June 2) that takes the tech a step further. It includes Control4 automation and touchpad controls - something most viewers of HGTV have likely not heard of because technology is rarely mentioned on “House Hunters” and “Holmes on Homes.”

In a blog about “what makes this house green,” HGTV says: “The home’s security, lighting and sound systems can be controlled and the home’s energy usage monitored via a Control4 system accessed from a customized iPad.”

According to the HGTV Pro interactive tool that lets readers understand more about the Green Home’s energy-efficient and eco-friendly aspects, “The Control4 home automation system allows the homeowner to control electronic functions, from room temperature to lighting, via an Apple iPad or iPhone.

A keypad replaces a deadbolt on the home’s front entrance; securing the home is as simple as a click of the keypad. The Control4 system also controls sound (the family room, loft and patio areas are equipped with speakers) and monitors energy production and usage via TED, a real-time, in-home electricity management system.”

We are guessing HGTV viewers have heard of the iPad and iPhone, but for controlling all of those things in a home, probably didn’t know there’s an app for that!

The home was planned by Jack Thomasson, the man behind the plans of HGTV’s Dream Homes. HGTV lists other key personnel that went into the Green Home design and construction: Linda Woodrum, interior designer; Mike Woodley, architect; Infinity Home Collection, builder; and Forest City Stapleton, developer. There’s no bio for him, but check out the video below that features Phillip Lind, the “technology solutions specialist” who worked on the Control4 system.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 22 Jun 2011 16:27:00 GMT

Wi-Fi-Connected Lightbulbs, Coming To Smart Homes In 2012

BY KIT EATON Thu May 19, 2011

Not only will these new bulbs save you money every month, they’ll be tons of fun for amateur lighting designers, and can even increase home security.

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A Wi-Fi connected lightbulb that’ll cost you just an extra buck a pop may sound crazy, but it’s a soon-to-be reality that promises to transform your house into a mood-lit, low-power, eco-friendly smart home. That’s the suggestion from NXP, a Netherlands-based semiconductor company that invented the Greenchip technology that will be in many Wi-Fi connected lightbulbs on sale by early 2012.

Why on Earth would you want a lightbulb with an IP address? It’s not obvious until you realize we’re not talking regular incandescent bulbs here. The tech will go into advanced compact fluorescent units as well as LED light bulbs, both clean low-power replacements for Edison’s aging invention. These lights already incorporate a few chunks of silicon in their bases to help control them, and it’s this tiny circuit board that enables all sorts of new things–adding NXP’s tiny Wi-Fi system to the board is relatively easy and cheap. And then you can turn your lights on and off from a computer hooked up to your home’s wireless grid.

We spoke to Jim Lindop, NXP’s general manager of low power RF, and he explained “one thing is to lower the energy consumption of the bulb, and the other is to make them smart” and this smart-making really is the “next stage, the evolution of lighting.” Home automation has long been able to do some of this sort of thing, but the advent of LED lighting in particular (which can even include color variation lighting) and ubiquitous home networking means it’s now much simpler to do. “You can now connect burglar alarm systems wirelessly to your lights…you can cycle your lights so it looks like someone’s around.

Amazing, no? You’ll also be able to control mood lighting “states” with a remote control, or via your iPad, as if you were a theater lighting designer; you’ll be able to quickly and easily incorporate movement sensing automated lighting, that could even turn on dimly if it detects you’re stumbling to the bathroom at midnight; and you’ll be able to download apps to hone and polish your home’s lighting energy needs so that you end up with a smaller power bill.

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Posted by chantal Tue, 14 Jun 2011 16:17:00 GMT

NXP technology enables light bulbs to be turned on via web


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In the latest incarnation of the ‘internet enabled fridge’, NXP has announced technology that can be integrated into the base of an energy efficient light bulb. Not only does this technology offer dimming abilities, it will also allow light bulbs to be turned on and off over the web.

According to Jon Croteau, general manager of NXP’s power lighting solutions business: “The only time I’ve seen something like this was when I first saw the iPhone.”

Leaving aside the small issue of why anyone might want to turn light bulbs on and off using the web and bigging your product up by comparing it to the iPhone, there is one interesting issue in the announcement; the fact that NXP is taking on ZigBee. Fuelling this potential showdown with ZigBee is NXP’s recent acquisition of Jennic. “It was acquired because of its software competence, including the 6LOWPAN stack, and its power efficient hardware,” Croteau admitted.

Rightly, Croteau says there will not be an ‘internet of things’ if the ‘things’ use proprietary interfaces or carry royalty penalties. “If you want an IP based network,” Croteau asserted, “you can’t have one that is ZigBee based. But it’s not about competing with ZigBee,” he continued, “it’s about delivering something people want to buy.”

The technology must have something going for it, because NXP has signed up TCP, which manufactures more than 1million energy efficient every day. But its adoption requires the creation of a developer’s community. Croteau recognises this and said an open source consortium is in the process of being established. Without other developers, the technology will go nowhere.

NXP, of course, is the privatised version of Philips Semiconductors and Croteau’s admission that NXP is ‘setting up an alternative to Zigbee’ does, however, bring to mind earlier attempts by Philips to ‘set up alternatives’. Who remembers V2000; the ill fated video format that got steamrollered by VHS and Betamax? Who remembers DAT, the tape based data storage approach obsoleted by the cdrom?

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Posted by chantal Thu, 09 Jun 2011 16:37:00 GMT

Marvell chip designed to improve LED light quality

MAY 16, 2011 by Martin LaMonica

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Semiconductor company Marvell today is set to introduce a chip geared at improving the light from LED bulbs and connecting them to a network. The 8801 chip is small–about the size of a penny–and will be about the same price as existing LED lighting electronics.

If Marvell signs on light manufacturer customers, it could bring the very good light quality of some commercial LEDs to more affordable consumer products, said Kishore Manghnani, vice president of Marvell’s Communications and Consumer business. He said the chip, which integrates multiple functions on this single controller chip, is being tested by commercial or consumer light fixture makers now and it takes them about six months to introduce products with new chips.

Light quality for consumer LED bulbs has improved over the past few years but the color rending index (CRI), a measure of quality, is still not as high as incandescent bulbs. With the chip, Manghnani said a CRI of 95, higher than most of the consumer LED bulbs available now, is possible. The chip can control the current and temperature of two types of LED light sources. So a fixture or bulb maker could use the chip and driver to use LEDs with two different colors, such as white and red, to improve color rendering. Until now, the electronics to control different colored LEDs would be too large or expensive for consumer products, Manghnani said.

The Marvell component will also make LED dimming more precise and allow a lighting company to embed a wireless chip in the bulb. With a wireless ZigBee or Wi-Fi radio, lights can be controlled from a central point or set on a schedule. Last week, Google demonstrated a networked LED bulb controlled by its Android@Home software due for release by the end of the year.

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Posted by chantal Wed, 01 Jun 2011 16:10:00 GMT

Intelligent Device Automates Energy Savings

ThinkEco’s plug-in modlet learns your usage patterns and offers scheduling recommendations.

May 03, 2011 by Steven Castle

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Like many of us, Mei Shibata has a home entertainment system with a sizable TV, DVD player, Wii game console and a cable box. But unlike many of us, she’s saving energy and money with it.

While no one is at in her New York home during certain times of the day, power is cut to the entertainment system—including the “always-on” cable box. Then, before her child arrives home and watches TV, power is resumed to the system and the cable box has time to boot up and download the necessary programming information.

It’s all done with a product called the modlet, from ThinkEco. The modlet is a plug-in device with two outlets and wireless ZigBee connection to a computer for the software interface. The modlet can monitor the energy of an appliance of device plugged into it—and it can cut or resume power to that device automatically. Even better, this is based on your preferences and your usage patterns.

The modlet and its software learns how you use the things plugged into it, and recommends savings plans.

ThinkEco estimates that cutting power to a cable box alone for 12 hours a day results in annual savings of $17, and cutting power to it 18 hours a day can save $25, based on a rate of 15 cents per kilowatt hour…

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Posted by chantal Fri, 27 May 2011 16:15:00 GMT