EDITORS CHOICE 08.12.15

Energy Management: Custom Control and Monitoring are Still Key

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Climate change, as one of the most critical and debated crises of the modern age, has rightfully impacted everything from government policy to farming to manufacturing. In the past ten years alone, as global awareness and subsequent protests increase in volume and effectiveness, world governments have taken steps to mandate changes, including how we as a planet use energy, to lessen the environmental devastation already visible in our polar poles—though it can be argued these measures are still nowhere near enough to fend off a near-future global crisis.

Climate change, as one of the most critical and debated crises of the modern age, has rightfully impacted everything from government policy to farming to manufacturing. In the past ten years alone, as global awareness and subsequent protests increase in volume and effectiveness, world governments have taken steps to mandate changes, including how we as a planet use energy, to lessen the environmental devastation already visible in our polar poles—though it can be argued these measures are still nowhere near enough to fend off a near-future global crisis.

While the conversation about climate change continues to influence policy, one of its significant solutions, energy management, has had a growing presence in both commercial and residential custom integration, fueling the creation of a number of interactive tools to help consumers get a grip on their energy consumption while adhering to newly implemented policies.

“A significant development in the integration of energy management has been the introduction of the Code for Sustainable Homes—the national standard for the sustainable design and construction of new homes that aims to reduce our carbon emissions and create homes that are more sustainable,” noted Stijn Ooms, technology director for Crestron EMEA. “This has led to manufacturers developing more user-friendly interfaces such as mobile apps, etc. Crestron, for example, connects all these systems on a single, flexible control backbone, simplifying the user experience and intelligently conserving energy in the process.”

User interfaces for lighting and heating control have been a signature selling point in AV integration for some time, but as Sam Woodward, Customer Education Leader for Lutron EA has pointed out, recent advances in aesthetics, ergonomics and networking have enabled homeowners to interact much more easily with these control systems.

“Modern controls enable every member of the family, and every guest in your home, to achieve the comfort they require whilst saving energy by reducing light and heat usage at the same time,” Woodward added. “Whether that’s enabling wirelessly connected control from smart devices such as phones or tablets through networking, or whether it’s using elegant wall-mounted keypads to control both light and temperature: the interaction with the user can now be both swift and simple.

“Finally, the use of accurate occupancy detection technology can ensure considerable energy savings by simply reducing set-point temperatures and switching off lights in unoccupied rooms, without the conscious control from the users.”

The Internet of Things concept can be credited, too, with thrusting energy management control to the forefront of consumers' minds, with many manufacturers playing in the IoT space contributing non-platform specific user interfaces that Chris Bundy, senior brand manager for ELAN at Core Brands, acknowledged “avoid complexity and use graphics to present data in a way that can be consumed at a glance.” The one drawback of this slew of digitally ergonomic apps and control interfaces, as Bundy highlighted, is the one-to-one relationship each share with a single IoT device, component or system.

That lack of interoperability has been a cause of much debate both inside and outside of custom AV integration, and remains one of the key factors in consumers ultimately turning to custom AV solutions as a unifying solution.

"Lutron has always been at the forefront of innovation in new technologies over the last 50 years and the current rise of the IoT is no exception,” Woodward said. "Our residential products interact with a variety of technologies from Apple and Google (Nest), to Honeywell and many others. This is achieved with a mixture of standard open protocols for communication and using driver software built into our systems. We help our dealers by offering them training courses, both online and in the classroom, where they can go hands-on with our systems to see how simple it can be to make different devices work together. On top of that we also openly publishing our own Integration Protocol for everyone to use. For us, reliability is key, and so, rather than adopting a “one system does everything” approach, we prefer to tightly integrate our solutions with a wide variety of useful products from other specialist vendors.”

AT Core Brands the ELAN control platform has built out its driver database for third-party energy management devices like the Nest thermostat. “Core Brands has also been evolving the BlueBOLT remote power and energy management technology that powers many of the Panamax and Furman power products on the market today, and has committed to expanding BlueBOLT compatibility across all power products going forward,” Bundy said.

Crestron hasn’t shied away from the impact of IoT either, with many of its solutions open to control and monitoring from smart devices. For integrators, it has to be just as simple.

“For dealers ease of installation is key. Often with HVAC systems, integration is very complicated but not with Crestron IBT (integrated building technology) systems. Our energy efficient solutions can help to reduce HVAC energy bills by 15-35 percent,” noted Ooms, who provided stats to show the benefits of using Crestron IBT solutions in the UK. “Deploying our solutions also earns credits under the Code for Sustainable Homes standard—using the Crestron IBT systems alone can achieve a code level of 2** rating for homes, which is almost 16 percent of the total required.”

Beyond the pressing tangle of IoT and the further technology refinement of the familiar custom integration control user experience, the next frontier for true energy management lies at many fronts. The aim of companies playing in custom AV is personalisation, something that large control manufacturers such as Crestron continue to pitch as an ideal, simple approach to getting the population at large invested in energy concerns.

There is also a need to continue to unify control of all aspects of energy management within residential custom integration, a goal Woodward refers to as “de-silo-ing.”

“Convergence of systems enables more efficient energy saving and organisations such as CEDIA are doing a fantastic job at educating the installation industry in the fundamentals of networking but it’s also up to manufacturers, such as Lutron, to ensure totally reliable systems by making it easier to bring products together,” Woodward said.

On the world stage, reduction of energy waste and maintenance of aging grids are also a primary concern, as passionately raised by Bundy in his recent look at global energy compliance.

“As more energy utility providers implement secure communication technologies like Thread, manufacturers can do much more to be responsive, taking only what they need during peak usage times, and performing power intensive tasks, like powering an electric dryer, during times when the grid is least taxed,” Bundy said. “This will not only reduce energy waste, but also provide much more substantial savings for consumers. Core Brands has been laying the ground work with utilities around the world to voice the needs of residential energy users and further the notion that global energy management starts in the home where more than a third of all generated energy is consumed.”

Llanor Alleyne has reported on the custom integration market for more than 10 years and is the Editor of HiddenWires.