In this article we learn more about how the use of KNX technology has helped to create a ‘forever home’ for one happy customer and why those electricians who keep with smart home technology will soon reap the rewards.
They’ve found the right house, now how do you help them turn it into their forever home? Well for a start you need to make sure you’re in control and understand that the technology you choose today will not be forever, even if the bricks and mortar are.
Opportunities to control energy, comfort and entertainment are emerging at an astonishing rate, and the challenge is to create a home that will let the customer keep up without having to go back to the drawing board every time they want to add to or improve functionality. In other words, systems integrators and installers need to put KNX at the heart of smart home control.
CASE STUDY – FAMILY HOME
Paul Foulkes, who works for controls manufacturer and KNX UK member Wago, is well aware of the scope of KNX to deliver a long-term, scalable and flexible solution. His family home in town is a great example of what is possible.
Paul engaged an architect but managed the project himself, aware that the house needed a lot of work that was all going to have to be done with the family in residence. It was worth the effort because of its potential and has now been realised to become a wonderful home.
As is often the case, the first step was rewiring. The electrician he hired for the rewiring was delighted to be introduced to the simplicity of the KNX nodal system: he was more used to the long runs of Cat5 cable.
Paul had sketched out some ideas – switch locations, movement detectors, how to interact with the underfloor heating (UFH) and the remaining radiators, but, crucially had kept the specification quite open. With KNX there’s no requirement to plan exact locations for two- or three-way switches to allow for strappers and returns, or differentiate ceiling cabling for a PIR or a smoke detector.
This ultimate flexibility of install planning was highlighted when he decided to add a complex switching position into the hallway. He simply dropped a KNX cable from the nearest location (a PIR in the ceiling).
The socket ring mains in the house were not altered other than to provide for an extra office, bedroom and kitchen outlets as well as putting some appliances on radials to allow for energy and current draw monitoring. Lighting circuits were run as spurs back to the consumer unit.
Paul carried out the design, full install and commissioning of a mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR) system to improve air quality and heating efficiency.
This new home is intended to be a “forever home”, so Paul also thought about adaptions that might be needed in old age. At the same time, he’s not ready to turn his home in to an obvious retirement home so while it will be easy to fit a stairlift (if the time comes), there’s no evidence of it yet. Blanked KNX cable connections are in place for items such as pull cord and push button alarms and, of course, switch interfaces are all interchangeable with other KNX-compatible designs as needs change. Adding an IP link will also allow for remote care monitoring later on.
Paul has chosen Control Touch [LINK] from ABB, which will work in a complementary role with other app-based solutions such as calendars, Skype, photo albums, music and TV access which, in the future will allow him to stay in touch with family, keep track of medication, order food, control entertainment and remain engaged with society – all things that become important as we age.
The biggest consumer and waster of energy in the home is heating and cooling. So having a house where the temperature is comfortable and a heating system that is not wasteful is high on everyone’s agenda.
Here the advantages of the automation options offered by KNX for control, comfort and money saving are particularly evident. The KNX controls optimise the environment, but still leave the family in ultimate control, able to determine when the heating is turned on and off.
MVHR (mechanical ventilation heat recovery) throughout the building improves air quality and heating efficiency. With hours running monitoring it also lets the owner know when they should check the filters. The element of automatic servicing actions is carried through to the radiator and UFH valve purging. A humidity monitor in the bathroom avoids condensation build-up, a potential bugbear in most family homes.
All of this automation, control, monitoring and adaptive pre-empting has been possible as part of a standard house retrofit, with the family living on-site during the work. It goes to prove that, given a good build team and electrical contractor there is no reason for a customer not to consider installing KNX.
KNX and you
Professional installers are increasingly aware of the potential for smart home installation, especially with open systems like KNX which don’t tie you to a single manufacturer or concept. If not now, KNX should be a consideration in your future business planning.
To find out more about KNX technology and the training opportunities available visit the KNX UK association at: www.knxuk.org