Rockin’ Without a Carbon Footprint
November 20, 2012
By Steven Castle


Step into this Dallas-area house, and you are stepping into the near future—one in which serves up plenty of today’s coolest digital home entertainments along with a heaping, healthy dose of eco-friendliness, without any compromise.

A 10.56-kilowatt rooftop solar array helps power 14 zones of high-quality audio, three surround-sound systems and a home theater with a 103-inch screen. With a Pakedge enterprise-grade network, these homeowners don’t do without best-of-class communications technologies either. Natural daylighting is harvested by automated shades, water for irrigation comes from 5,000-gallons of automated rainwater storage, and a central rack system provides building efficiencies.

“The amount of energy saved and produced along with the efficiency of current technology allowed the home owners to rock out without leaving a carbon footprint,” says Tommy Kissell of electronics integrator Eco High Fidelity of Carrollton, Texas.

The family room features a 70-inch Sharp TV, surround sound and motorized shades that block or allow sunlight into the space.

Efficiency Starts with Design
Eco High Fidelity was involved in the two-year green home project from the blueprint stage and worked with green design/build firm ArTex Development, one of the leading sustainable design firms in Dallas. First the house was designed to take advantage of sunlight for power and lighting—then it was built to be energy efficient with proper insulation. “We probably had about 1,000 hours of phone calls, meetings, and planning sessions to coordinate the multiple subcontractors that were contributing to the process,” Kissell says. “Collaboration is the key to automation, so we consulted with the pool, irrigation and security companies to integrate their systems into our controls.”

The result is a modern take on living well and sustainably.

An upper portion of the centralized rack is for “don’t touch” processors and components..
The homeowners wanted the systems to be consistent and were big on eliminating wall acne. Eco High Fidelity and ArTex Development knew just what to do, centralizing a rack that holds most of the home’s systems to result in less wire use and keeping everything but TVs and speakers out of most rooms. It’s an underrated technique for building and planning green.

Leftover Category 6 Ethernet cables were used for jumper cables in the rack, which contains an Elan g! home control system processor, efficient Elan integrated Class D switching amps that eliminated extra components and an Aviosys  9100b web server that helps deliver video feeds from security cameras through the house.

“Every piece of material was used in the prewire, trimout or final except Styrofoam,” says Kissell.

Living Well—and Green
The homeowners enjoy all the Pandora and Rhapsody music they like via the Paradigm architectural in-ceiling speakers with zero bezels. In the surround-sound rooms, Paradigm Millenia three-channel soundbars and Yamaha Aventage receivers are used. The theater has Paradigm Studio series in-room speakers housed in a cabinet with a 103-inch Screen Innovations display and a Panasonic projector. The centralized rack is also served by a Furman UPS (uninterruptible power supply) with Panamax Furman’s BlueBolt technology to allow remote resets.

And perhaps the most beautiful thing? It’s all powered by Texas’ abundant sun, courtesy of the 48 solar panels that are hidden from view on the roof designed with a 22-degree pitch specifically designed or the solar installation. “Making solar look good in Dallas is key to making it work,” says Kissell.

Eco High Fidelity Dallas Home Home Theater
The theater features a 103-inch Screen Innovations display and Paradigm speakers.
The solar system’s Fronius inverter, which coverts the solar panels’ DC power to AC for housewide use, outputs its data of energy production to a web-based display. Eco High Fidelity is monitoring the energy production of the solar array, which produces 45 to 60 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day, against data about the homeowner’s usage through their utility bills to give them a report at the end of the year and possibly install an energy monitoring and management system. Kissell has also used a Kill A Watt single plug monitor during the solar system installation.

Eco High Fidelity tried a TED (The Energy Detective) system in the home, but it was not suited to the scale of this project.

Elan Climate app
The Elan g! system’s climate app shows temps in each room and a history for rooms (below).
Elan Climate History

The equipment rack is monitored through two Panamax Furman BlueBolt M5100 power conditioners–one in the main rack and another  in the upper rack for important “don’t touch” components that remain out of reach.The Furman power conditioners can report energy usage back to Eco High Fidelity and allow each of the components plugged into them to be rebooted if necessary. The BlueBolt system is used in most installations primarily for convenient remote rebooting that saves costly truck rolls.

Lights, Water, Control
Windows in the house have Lutron shades that help bring in daylight for lighting or block lighting to maintain a comfortable environment and save on cooling costs.

And because Texas has been host to some serious drought, collecting rainwater for irrigation is vital. Rain barrels supply the Rain Bird automated irrigation system, and a Global Caché network adapter between the Elan g! and irrigation system allows the water supply to switch between the rainwater harvesting system and the city water supply.

Two 2,500-gallon rain barrels provide water for irrigation through an automated pump and irrigation system.
The Elan g! system has Climate, Security, Weather, Shades/Lights, Media, Irrigation, Pool and Cameras apps. A useful mix of an Elan G TS7 in-wall touchpanel, iPads, iPhones, Android-based devices and Elan HR2 Remotes are used for control.

And Kissell is hoping by the end of the year to get a solar or renewable energy app to display the solar production through Elan system touchpanels.

Ultimately, he says, “Movies and music is why we do this, but the paradigm has shifted and our planet is headed toward a sustainable future.

“Architectural approaches have naturally evolved into sustainable practices, and builders are now relying on technology to centralize and control subsystems,” he adds. “The path towards sustainability relies on technology to monitor, control and plan. The automated home will be the collective keystone that will determine our country’s carbon footprint in the 21st century.”

Systems: Eco High Fidelity, Carrolton, Texas

Design/Build: ArTex Development, Dallas