*For a list of green building computer control system products listed by category click here
The future for green buildings is to blend low tech, alternative buildings with high tech computer monitor devices so that the occupants become more aware of their resource use. The current applications of computer control systems that can be used for resource conservation and resource tracking are listed below by category:
Weather monitors help you plan ahead as far as what resources you need to make last and for how long. With computerized weather stations you can document wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, rainfall, barometric pressure and more. Some have computer software that allows you to be connected to a remote system so you can tell what the weather is like in a different location. There are a handful of systems that will give you weather forecasts as well. Such things are extremely important when trying to gauge water usage and solar power usage.
Temperature control systems are an example of how a computer can help conserve energy and save you money on your next energy bill. There are entities that make temperature controls that go beyond temperature readings. These systems can be programmed with presets so they automatically turn on in the morning before you wake up. They have extremely sensitive sensors to airflow so that there are gradual temperature fluctuations and no under or over shooting. There are monitors that can be set so that multiple rooms can all have different temperature settings, and there are temperature control systems with motion control processes that can sense when someone opens a door and adjusts the heat to that room fluctuation. All of these temperature control systems can be used to help conserve the amount of energy you use in your household. Examples include presetting your system to never exceed a specified temperature, or setting rooms that are used the most for higher temperatures versus rooms not used so that there isn’t heat wasted.
Lighting controls can also be integrated into your house in order to minimize wasted electricity. There is a multitude of devices on the market that help regulate light within your household. Some devices are meant to be placed near your front door so when you enter with the swipe of an output card they know who has entered and turn on the lights through out the house based on a pre determined setting. This allows for the house to be lit when you first arrive so that you have the comfort of light right away without the need to leave lights on while you are gone. Other devices can be set for varying light zones. These devices are preset so that rooms that need the most light such as the kitchen can be set at 100%, versus the hallway can be set at 50%, so that light maximization isn’t wasted. There are also various devices that have remote control dimmers so that with one touch of a button they recall your set level for specific rooms and adjust accordingly. Others have built in motion sensors that detect movement and turn on so that light isn’t wasted while no one is using a certain room. Further systems can be used to manage light at different times of the day in order to maximize day lighting. For example, systems will set artificial light at 0-10% while a room is receiving natural light during the morning and afternoon, and adjust when the sun goes down so that they switch up to 100%. All of these devices can be incorporated into your household with the notion that they can help you regulate your lighting so that much less is wasted. With devices that have presets, you don’t need to remember to turn your light switch down a notch in the hallway, or to turn off lights in rooms that are not occupied.
Indoor Air Quality:
There are computer controls that can alert you of your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and ones that can help you test your water. There are various different monitors that help you either determine IAQ levels in your house or help you purify your air when needed. Some monitors are hand held and measure for things such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature, humidity and more. There are other monitors that continuously test such levels in any given room.
Water quality computer systems are particularly useful for those that have water catchment systems and other potable water systems. There are devices that can calibrate amounts of dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, ammonium, nitrate, chloride and chlorine levels. Others can test depth to tell you how much water is in your container. These devices can help alert you of low levels of water storage or if something has contaminated your water supply.
Computer controls also have wider implications for more off the grid, alternative housing designs. For example, there are Photovoltaic (PV) Panel Controllers that can alert you when your battery is low or take uncertain voltage from a solar panel and condition is to safely charge your batteries. All of this lets you monitor your PV panels so that you ultimately end up with less battery maintenance. Some devices will give you temperature readings as well and others that allow you to set up a data log to your personal computer so that you can have remote system monitoring.
When you live in an off the grid home you need to know the daily status of your solar electric panels, solar hot water panels, cisterns of your drinking water, greywater and black water systems, and of the irrigation system for your food growing plants. There needs to be a simple to use control panel that monitors weather patterns and can give the homeowner readings of water storage levels, battery charges, and more so that she or he can alter their use and plan their activities to make sure their resources don’t run out. This is a plea for all you green geeks out there to meet our demand for such a product!! Wouldn’t it be great if the building code required a resource- use monitor in every building on the grid and off the grid so that all building occupants were confronted daily with their utility use?!