Energy management

BDPS470

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DVRs and Other Set-Tops Drain Billions Annually

The Natural Resources Defense Council says that your home’s biggest energy hog could surprise you.
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June 16, 2011 | by Rachel Cericola

Your DVR, cable and/or satellite box gives you so much pleasure. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it also asks a lot in return. The NRDC says that your home’s biggest energy hog is not the refrigerator or air conditioner; it’s actually that pesky set-top box.

The report says that users are spending approximately $1 billion a year to use those boxes. OK, that entertainment may be priceless to some. The shocking part, however, is that those set-tops use another $2 billion while inactive, but still running at near full power.

Get ready to be even more horrified. The NRDC says that the energy wasted is equivalent to the annual energy output of six coal burning power plants (500 MW). Yikes.

“Set-top boxes are the ultimate home energy vampires, silently sucking significant amounts of energy and money when nobody’s using them,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the NRDC. “The consumer, who pays the electric bill, deserves technologies without hidden costs. At a time when everyone is trying to cut waste from our budgets and electric grid, service providers shouldn’t saddle their subscribers with boxes that unnecessarily squeeze their wallets.”

The report, “Reducing the National Energy Consumption of Set-Top Boxes,” says that a new high-def box actually sucks up more energy than a new flat-panel TV.

There are approximately 160 million set-top boxes currently in U.S. homes. That’s about one box for every two Americans.

NRDC is hoping that pay-TV service providers will solve this problem with energy-efficient boxes. One possible solution would be adding some type of low power mode, which is starting to pop up on boxes in Europe. Of course, you could also ask your provider about a better box—one that meets Energy Star Version 4.0 requirements.

“We’ve improved the efficiency of all sorts of electronics—from TVs to video game consoles,” said Horowitz. “It’s just as possible to improve the efficiency of our DVRs and other pay TV boxes. But they’re not going to build a better mousetrap unless we, the consumers, demand it.”

Rachel Cericola – Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.

Lutron’s Wireless Climate Control Decreases Wall Acne

Lutron is justifiably famous for their lighting control and electronic shades: now they have a new product offering up their sleeve that works well for both new construction and remodel projects. Lutron just released a new wireless climate control system (HVAC) that greatly improves on the good ol’ thermostat. Here are the main details:

  • A small wireless on-wall temperature sensor is placed where it will monitor the temperature most efficiently (2 or more can be used to average temperatures in an area). The changeable battery has a 5-year life (Lutron also includes a wired return air duct sensor is included for backup, just in case the wireless temp sensor needs a new battery).
  • Lutron’s seeTemp wall control (what we think of as the ‘thermostat’) may be ganged next to Decora light switches, dimmers, or Lutron’s own lighting control keypads (both HomeWorks and RadioRA2) to minimize wall clutter. Available in 27 different gloss and satin colors, and a Celsius version is available, too. The seeTemp control gets its power either from existing thermostat wiring, 120v AC, or 24v DC. Since the Lutron Wall Control does not have to be wired back to your heater or A/C unit, you can put these in many new and convenient places.
  • The only wired component is the ‘HVAC Controller’, which connects to your existing or new HVAC equipment…the HVAC Controller communicates wirelessly with the seeTemp wall controls and temp sensors and ties the system together. This controller device is hidden away, and mounted right next to your big HVAC unit.
  • Optional control from your Android phone, iPhone, iPad, or iPad touch both in the home and/or anywhere in the world using a $19.95 Lutron app in iTunes and the Android Market.
  • This system can be controlled from popular 3rd party home automation control systems like  AMX, Control4 and Elan.
  • Ability to set temperature schedules through the seeTemp wall control, Android, Apple apps, or through the 3rd party control systems mentioned above.
  • Works with Lutron’s wirless occupancy/vacancy sensors…select a temperature set point when a room is occupied and another when no one is around (save energy).
  • Ability to completely eliminate visible wall controls (the seeTemp) IF using your Android phone, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or the above-mentioned home automation control systems.

Lutron RadioRA2 lighting and climate control

According to www.energystar.gov, you can save up to 16% of the energy used on HVAC with temperature controls, so a ‘smart’ climate control system is worth it, both for lower energy bills and reducing your carbon footprint.

This HVAC system allows for much more flexibility & convenience than a typical thermostat system, as the wall controls may be placed where they make sense aesthetically and for ease of access. Less wall clutter!

This is an excellent new climate control system, but there are a few limitations: you can have a maximum of 2 HVAC Controllers, and each can communicate with a maximum of 5 temp sensors, so the system will accommodate 10 climate zones max. At this point, there is no humidity monitoring/control and no outdoor temperature sensor.

Integrating climate controls with home automation systems and eliminating wall clutter is not new (we’ve been doing it for years), but the exciting news is that Lutron’s new system can easily be retrofitted to existing homes and gives some of the same benefits of integrated climate control without having to invest in a full home automation system.

For greater convenience and energy savings, you should couple this climate control system with RadioRA 2 lighting controls and Sivoia motorized shades. Then, you can have a “Green” button on the keypad that dims the lights 5%, lowers the shades to block heat gain, and set back the temperature 2%. Likewise, when leaving for vacation, you can press an “Away” button that triggers lighting scene patterns that give your home an occupied look and sets back the thermostats to an energy-saving set point. Convenience and energy savings both!