Product Report: Solar, Safety and Automation

Product Report: Solar, Safety and Automation


You can fit solar panels, home control, energy management and safety devices all into one home with an elegant and energy efficient finish.

​Solar panels, home control, energy management and safety devices: Can they all fit together in a new home? Absolutely. Not only do they fit together, they can be connected and integrated. Solar panels lead homeowners to in-home energy monitoring and management systems, which can lead to home control and automation—or serve as a key feature of home control systems. Even safety devices like Nest’s nifty new smoke detector—yes, we wrote nifty and smoke detector in the same sentence—can be linked with Nest’s retro-sexy thermostat to automatically turn off an HVAC system if the smoke detector’s carbon monoxide sensor detects dangerous levels of the gas.

Energy, home control and other devices—even digital door locks—can be connected easily in a home today.

Built-in PV with Solar Roofing Shingles

For homebuyers who like the idea of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that produce electricity but don’t want clunky-looking panels marring their rooflines, Dow’s Powerhouse solar shingles may do the trick.

These are actual roofing shingles that can be nailed onto the roof structure much like asphalt shingles, to better blend in with the roof. Only these shingles also contain thin-film, flexible solar collectors using CIGS (cadmium, indium, gallium and diSelenide) technology that is a growing alternative to the popular polycrystalline silicon panels used in most solar installations. The efficiency of CIGS isn’t as high as crystalline silicon, but the thin-film technology allows it to be integrated into products such as these solar shingles. The Dow shingles can even be walked on. They snap together and require a minimum of wiring penetrations for the final connections to an inverter.

The Powerhouse shingles generate about 12 watts per square foot, and they’re built to withstand 1¼-inch diameter hail, 150-mph wind speeds and 110-mph wind-driven rain. You’ll also pay more for these versus traditional solar panels. Dow won’t say by how much, but its 3kW system installed on a portion of the rooftop may cost the homeowner about $25,000 after federal and utility solar incentives. Also, be sure to figure in the cost of roofing materials saved when performing calculations. The solar shingles are installed by authorized contractors, though availability so far is limited to California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

 

 

ClareHome Builder Program

We love Clare Controls’ intuitive user interface that allows homeowners to personalize and customize their control screens with drag-and-drop widgets via a touchpanel, smartphone or tablet. Not only can Mom, Dad and the kids have their own control interfaces, families can quickly and easily manage access and create automated scenes and groups of controls. Smart icons can show the room temperature, whether lights are on and thumbnail images from the front door video camera.

Clare Controls also has a Builder Program that offers homebuilders a base package of a controller and the necessary wiring, as well as packaged applications that homeowners select prior to construction. Homebuyers can select the options they want as part of the home design, including multi-room audio, video, lighting and shade controls, energy/HVAC, CCTV cameras, security and access control, and more. Or builders may opt to offer a ClareHome System One including controller and a multiroom audio solution with streaming music, with all the necessary hardware installed in a standard, single stud bay enclosure.

In addition, Clare has recently introduced a new Cliq Host controller and expansion module that connects simply by clicking together, efficient Class D amplifiers for whole-house music, and a new video recorder to work with its surveillance cameras and allow users to select parts of images to enlarge or search through an archive.

Clare has been Apple-centric, working on iPads, iPhones and other iDevices — however, the company is now adding Android compatibility.

 

 

Nest’s Talking Smoke Detector

 

If you had to redesign a home’s god-awful-looking smoke detectors, who would you go to? How about those smart guys who re-invented the thermostat at Nest Labs and cut their teeth by innovating a simple little product called the iPod? Come to find out, you don’t have to redesign the smoke detector at all, because the Nest guys already did it for you. And it talks. The Nest Protect is square with rounded corners and a cheery sunflower pattern that looks much better than the usual smoke-detecting ceiling tumors. That’s a good start. It speaks to you before sounding the incessant alarms that have driven us all nuts, giving a ‘Heads Up’ on the danger so if you only burned the bacon you can give it a little wave and silence it. It lights up with a nightlight when you pass to help light your way. It also has a light ring that shines different colors depending on whether it’s working, there’s danger or if the battery needs replacing. It also has a carbon monoxide detector and connects to a Nest Thermostat through your Nest Account, so it can automatically shut down the furnace, a possible source of CO poisoning, when the carbon monoxide alarm goes off.

It will be available in November for $129—and yes, that’s much more than the average smoke detector. But you can’t deny its cool and smart factors. A version that’s compatible with wired security systems is expected to be available in early 2014.

 

Alarm.com Goes Solar

 

Although Alarm.com is known primarily as a security company, it’s become a leader in offering energy management in the home. Alarm.com not only offers wirelessly connected thermostats, it automates with other devices in the house, from lighting controls to plug-in modules. “The energy management piece of that is the fastest growing. The most common thing added is a thermostat, followed by lighting modules,” says Jay Kenney, vice president of marketing for Alarm.com. Alarm.com’s Smart Schedules Activity Patterns learns a family’s behavior and creates smarter and more energy-saving thermostat settings. An Extreme Temps feature allows users to program automatic thermostat setbacks when temperatures get too high in the summer. And Geo-Services allow users to set automated functions such as starting the air conditioner when someone is a certain distance away from the house or sending alerts when something is left on.

Now, Alarm.com is offering solar options through 1BOG (One Block off the Grid)—and can monitor solar production with its in-home systems. “Solar is an entry point into the home. That type of consumer is really interested in energy savings and environmental concerns,” Kenney says.

Alarm.com is also tapping the recovering homebuilder market by powering Schneider Electric’s Wiser Home Management system, which is now being installed in homes by production builder KB Home.

 

Introducing TiO Home Control

 

TiO (Turn It On Automation) is a new and affordable Android-based home control and automation solution from Automated Control Technology Partners that allows homeowners to easily set lighting, moods and climate via a touchpanel, tablet or smartphone. A user goes no more than two levels deep in the interface to select music or adjust their climate settings. It works via a Wi-Fi connection with the 450-foot-range Master Coordinator router and controller ($499 retail), as well as TouchLite light switches and a ThermoTouch touchscreen thermostat. The control unit delivers Sirius XM satellite radio, Rhapsody and has Bluetooth for streaming from mobile devices. A 100-watt StealthStream amplifier ($599) is being introduced and can be installed as a single-gang wall box, and it receives power over Category Ethernet cabling. TiO is also offering third-party integration and support for security, IP cameras and various other subsystems.

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