Energy Management is mission critical for every region in the country.
By Douglas Weinstein
FOR MANY HOMEOWNERS, POWER OUTAGES ARE NOT AN OPTION. From wine cellars to security cameras to home medical devices, having clean, reliable electricity is a must. And because the United State’s power grids are aging and unable in many parts of the country to keep up with the demand for electricity, a wide swath of the nation’s power grid is at risk for extensive blackouts.
Which is why renewable energy strategies, coupled with energy storage and ultra-clean power for sensitive sub-systems — lighting, climate, networking/internet access, microprocessor-based electronics like your entertainment systems and pretty much anything that plugs into the wall — is now a must-have for any performance home.
The good news is you don’t have to be susceptible to power outages any longer, as long as you put together a power plan at the inception of any major remodel or new build project. There are many solutions depending on your needs, whether that requires whole-house energy storage for long durations of power outages or more modest solutions that protect key assets in the home.
A leading voice in this emerging performance home category is CET & Associates out of Denver, one of the premier manufacturer’s representative firms engaged in the luxury residential industry. I recently sat down with Director of Energy, Marc Ayoub and Energy Sales Specialist Michael Pisarcik to talk about how they are supporting their Rocky Mountain region dealer base and design-build community to share their knowledge and advice.
DOUG WEINSTEIN: Let’s start with how your energy department came into being.
MICHAEL PISARCIK: CET began life over 20 years ago as an industrial rep firm. 15 years ago we took on Lutron and from there we expanded into luxury residential products. As you can imagine, Lutron and the modern lighting category requires a lot of attention, so we have specialists who focus on that product group. The same thinking was behind our development and commitment to energy management.
MARC AYOUB: I was working in our Lutron commercial lighting division when we were approached by sonnen, a company from Southern Germany who developed the first sonnenBatterie. At a time when solar energy was only fed into the grid, they created a system that allowed households to store and consume their self-generated energy, day and night. They came to us to see if we would take on the line.
Our management offered me the opportunity to develop an energy division because we could see the problems power outages and dirty electricity were causing in luxury residences in the Rocky Mountain region. With fires and other climate-related issues, we could all see this category — and really how you even wrap your head around developing a power plan for your residence — was going to become just as important as resilient building practices. So that’s how we got started and we’ve been advocates for clean, reliable energy for some time now.
MICHAEL: I think energy management and planning your power needs is going to have the same trajectory as fire resistant building cladding and roofing materials. Now that the Western U.S. has two fire seasons, consumers are driving the conversation and conversion regarding fire resistant building practices. A recent AIA survey showed huge increases in fire resistant products in the engineering and build out of new homes. We see the same thing happening with power, because it’s so fundamental to every home and more and more families are experiencing repeated blackouts and power failures.
There are two things that every home shares and that most homeowners — and design-build professionals — take for granted. Water and power. When it comes to water, most people don’t drink it straight from the tap, and in luxury residences you will normally find a filtration system. So we filter our water before use. The same now applies to energy. We use geothermal or solar to capture natural, renewable energy, then store that energy for later use, and finally filter that energy so our electronics are receiving clean, voltage regulated energy.
Power reserves that keep the lights on.
DOUG: So what is a power plan?
MARC: A power plan is anything that considers how to get power into your home. Scaled from a wire coming into your home and all the way up to battery storage. Everything runs on power and clean energy is critical. So what do you not want to shut down in a power outage? Your medical devices, your wine cellar, network and internet, food storage, your lighting, etc? And, conversely, what can be shut down to save energy during an emergency? The outdoor entertainment system would be a good example.
For some homeowners, they will have selected areas that they want up and running full time. And there are products that address limited power back-up. On the other side of the scale is a homeowner that doesn’t want anything going offline. We have products for that person as well. So solutions we offer are scalable.
The next part of a plan would entail your electrical infrastructure. Just the right placement of junction boxes is important to our plan, as well as the design of the area that houses the energy management products. So for the homeowner who wants to protect their entire residence, we would consult with the architect and builder and recommend a dedicated, well-ventilated space for the components and breaker panels. Get everything together so you have an actual plan as to how you are going to distribute energy and how you are going to store energy for emergencies.
MICHAEL: And let’s not forget about the filtering and protection you are going to deploy, because when you look at the modern smart home, it’s packed with sensitive electronics — your network and internet connection all the way through to your home office, intelligent lighting and control keypads — and if you want these cool devices to last a lifetime, you need to feed them clean energy.
I think that for architects and builders, which we work with and have great relationships with, it’s in everyone’s interest to mitigate any problems up front in the design process. Delivering a house that just works properly from day one is a big differentiator in the marketplace. It’s what builds relationships and reputations. So taking a thorough look at what a home’s energy needs are and having a plan for the inevitable climate-related emergency or just not relying on aging power grids is the smart approach in the design phase.
MARC: And getting everyone on the same page is also part of the plan. From the homeowner, architect, builder and on to the engineer, electrician and systems integrators, everyone has a role to play and it always helps to have everyone on the same page.
Keeping home medical devices online during emergency power outages.
DOUG: How has the process been? Are people receptive? What is the level of awareness?
MARC: Integrators didn’t get it at first. It was a new concept both from a technology standpoint as well as for the reason the category exists. So I spent two and a half years introducing the concept. We did trainings — live and online — just as a rep firm would traditionally do, but then there was also a lot of hand-holding. We’d work each project and each install and be there to help answer questions and just make sure everything was done properly. That type of strategy is also important to most of the manufacturers we represent. They get actively involved with each project as well.
As Michael mentioned earlier, we have relationships with architects, builders and engineers and called on them to share this advantageous technology which we knew they would want to learn about and share with their customers. We went to specifier events and talked about the grid and what’s going on regarding energy. We had a good reception from architects who like to keep up with cutting edge technology and realize it’s an important place to be. If they want to be considered an expert, they need to know a lot, and here is a topic that is front and center in a lot of homeowner’s minds.
MICHAEL: The first feedback and conversations with consumers came about when electric cars became commonplace. The conversations with the consumer really centered on resiliency. They understood the need to continue to live life normally despite bad things happening around them. COVID also drove the conversation because people working from home understood the need for reliable power for their internet. More time in the home made power more important. Natural disasters and climate crises have also obviously brought even more awareness.
DOUG: Talk about the range of energy management products you represent.
MICHAEL: If we just looked at a logical progression of solutions, let’s start with Lumin Smart Energy, BrightVault and RoseWater Energy. All of these products work great in high-end homes, and the companies know what they are doing. These are not mass market items. And each of them have their own benefits. Similar products from the outside, but different as far as the solution it delivers.
What’s critical is going to vary by residence and homeowner mindset, but the network is the most important technology in any space. So we would want to ensure that that product had surge protection and back-up power. Doesn’t have to be a large energy management investment, but a wise one if you are under budget constraints.
As we move to whole house solutions, you start with a smart breaker panel. That’s what Lumin provides. This is where you actually manage your power. You make regular circuits responsive to grid outages, solar production, battery state of charge, electricity pricing and even schedules to improve home energy efficiency.
BrightVault is an energy storage system. This is where resiliency comes into play when the power goes out. A builder I know in Pebble Beach just told me recently about a home he’s building and with the power outages going on in the state, he was having trouble communicating with the homeowners. They told him about their BrightVault system in their Aspen home and told him to make sure to include them in the California home because they weren’t interested in playing by PG & E’s rules.
Finally, the RoseWater Energy’s Hub is the only panel-level complete energy management system that addresses power quality. Robust online analytics and real-time notifications provide the homeowner with the security that your home always has the cleanest, most stable power.
DOUG: Final thoughts?
MARC: As we continue to move towards the all-electric home, energy management becomes more important and more critical to how people want to live in their homes. They really don’t like power outages.
The reason we’ve chosen the products we represent is because each one provides a unique solution. The consumer is starting to drive the conversation and each home is unique, as is each power plan. Understanding the category only benefits you as being the expert. This is the future, and it is only going to get more important as the grid continues to deteriorate. The utilities, our politicians and our society aren’t going to come to the rescue anytime soon, so its up to the design-build community to provide this critical infrastructure for our clients.