The "Smart Grid" and "HAN"
The term “Smart Grid” is heard everywhere. It’s the new catchy phrase. What is the smart grid, and what makes it smarter than the “dumb grid” we are replacing?
The “grid” is the electrical infrastructure that supplies power to homes and business across the country. Depending on demand, this grid can run efficiently with reasonable amounts of reserve, or it could run inefficiently with high demand and eventual power outages. Though energy consumption has increased over the last twenty years, the actual power plants, transmission wires, and power poles have not increased required capacity to meet our needs. California imports much of its power from other states in order to close the gap. Since power infrastructure growth and environmentalism are diametrically opposing factions, researchers and solutions providers are looking for smarter ways to squeeze every milliamp of efficiency from our existing system.
According to the Energy Information Administration, residential and commercial non-industrial usage represents thirty-nine percent of the nation’s power consumption. Of that overall percentage, twenty five percent is used for residential lighting alone. In fact, overall residential power usage is almost equivalent to all transportation energy usage. Hybrid and electric cars are very popular topics today, mostly because they help sell cars and fulfill our desire to enter a long-overdue futuristic world. Home Area Networks, "HAN," is becoming the new catch word for innovative green technology in homes and offices across the country. See our May "Integration Odyssey" Newsletter that discusses culture and technology.
Looking at ways to gain efficiency in residential and commercial applications hasn’t been a very “sexy” topic. It is easy for everyday people to assume that reducing residential power consumption means less comfort, less lifestyle, and less convenience. In fact, smart home technology can provide both energy savings and improved lifestyle. This is where HAN enters the scene.
HAN revolves around the “Smart Meter.” Energy providers across the state and nation have committed to adopting HAN-enabled electrical meters, and these utility companies are currently installing smart systems now. By becoming "smart," electrical usage data can be tracked and monitored by a control system, capable of making adjustments to the various appliances to attain substantial energy savings without the negative result of diminished creature comforts.
Control4 is introducing its EMS-100 package to several utility companies as an inexpensive, if not free, solution for monitoring and intelligently controlling power usage. The EMS-100 package includes a wireless thermostat, LCD touch screen display, and processor for energy management and demand response capabilities, photo viewer, weather station, and Control4 home automation integration.
Utility companies are looking at providing the EMS-100 to customers as a means of lowering peak demand. Partnering Control4 with the utility companies makes great sense. Control4 has established a named presence in the “smart home” market, and Control4 has a recognizable brand and product line that provides a rich and compelling interface customers are looking for. Let’s face it, if your utility company sends you an industrial-looking device with unintelligible digits on a monochrome display, are you going to mount it on your wall?
What The Critics Say...
According to SmartGridNews.com, “We believe the HAN market could be as large as $3 billion annually within the next three years. The key to reaching this potential will be to provide the capabilities utilities need while also giving a compelling reason for consumers to want these things in their homes. Control4 has the best answer we’ve seen so far. The company combines technical specs robust enough for the most demanding utility, an interface easy enough for the most tech-averse consumer, and applications cool enough to make any neighbor jealous...
...Control4 has packaged energy management as just one more lifestyle application that runs on a device you’d love to have. If you own (or later buy) a Control4-compatible home entertainment system, the same in-home display that programs your thermostat and shows you messages from your utility also becomes a universal remote control on steroids.”
As we discussed in our November, 2008 “Going Green” Newsletter, zigbee wireless networks allow for the Control4 to schedule, access, and adjust lighting, HVAC, and irrigation systems to provide both savings AND convenience.
Get With Your Utility Company
Look for your local utility company to send information on their smart meter offerings. Take the time to read and learn about whether the system includes zigbee or Control4. If asked, request Control4 integration if you like the prospect of integrating a clean, well-deigned interface with your smart meter. Since Control4 is centered on a wireless zigbee transmission system, the install is quick and the communication is reliable.
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Would You Use This If Your Utility Company Provided It To You?
Control4 is working with several utility companies to offer a HAN solution that may be free to customers who opt in. (click image to view product information)
Navigation For Energy Savings
This tabletop version shows interactive resources, making energy saving simple and colorful--costing very little to deploy (click image to view EHX.com article)
Smart Meters Running on Zigbee
HAN is establishing ZigBee as the wireless communication protocol for Smart Grid products. (click image to view ZigBee's Smart Grid Information Page)
Existing Control4 Customers
Existing Control4 owners will have the ability to add HAN to their existing systems (click image to view product information)
Control4 Home Edition Software
The Composer Home Edition Software ($149) allows customers to quickly and easily set schedules. Similar to Outlook, customers can manage lighting, temperature, and irrigation with the integrated calendar and associated tasks. This software can also be used offsite, so if customers have a second home, they can manage utility usage from across the state or across the planet via 4Sight Subscription Service. (click image to view product information)