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Energy Consumption


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With the price of energy rising across the board, I'm starting to take a hard look at all of the energy consumption in my home. While a home automation system can reduce overall energy use by carefully controlling lighting and heating, the C4 systems are always on, and therefore use a bunch of energy themselves. Before I go sticking a Watts-Up in my equipment closet, I was if anyone has done a detailed study of the C4 hardware. In particular:

1) What's the power consumption of a dimmer (with or without LEDs lit). I'm especially concerned about this, since we have a lot of dimmers!

2) What is the average power consumption of an MC? Does it do any kind of intelligent power management (like turning off parts of the CPU or spinning down the disk when the system is idle?) Or if it uses the disk a lot for some reason, has anyone replaced the disk with an SSD?

3) Does the Mutli-channel Amp power down the amplifiers when there's no signal to be amplified?

4) What's the total idle power consumption of an average house-sized system?

Control4 has a nice eco brochure on its site, but it's marketing. It would be great to have idle/busy power measurements for the entire product line, as well as thermal output (this goes to another part of a component's energy use: keeping it cool!) Anyone with an engineer's perspective?

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I don't have specific numbers, since I've long since reset the WattStopper and deployed it elsewhere, but for the first month or so in our house I had my entire equipment closet running through a WattStopper. This included:

HC300

MC

2 x 16-ch amp

matrix switch

projector

2 stereo amps

DVD changer

DVD recorder

2 Tivos

Cable box

router

48-port POE switch

7 Mini Touch Screens

16 zones of speakers

and I was astounded at how little it ended up consuming. It was on the order of ten or twenty cents per day as I recall. I'll see if I wrote down the figures anywhere, but I had done the exercise to determine whether I wanted to institute any regime to reduce consumption, and I remember concluding that it was too tiny an amount to even worry about . . .

For the record, this did not include any dimmers, which obviously do not run from an outlet.

--Jason

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As far as the dimmers go, here's what I've found from my testing with a Kill-a-Watt meter and the Control4 dimmers:

Any electronic device that listens, whether it listens to a radio (zigbee) or listens on the powerline for a signal (UPB/X-10, etc.) uses current even if all lights are off. The Control4 Dimmer's radio is extremely low-power. That said, the only devices that turn off their zigbee radio are the remotes and thermostat, since they are the only ones that are (possibly) powered via batteries. Lighting devices, etc., you need the radio on to listen for commands at all times, otherwise you can't control them...

This is pretty standard for *any* electronic controllable dimmer.

Even if you were to turn off the zigbee radio, other microcontrollers within the dimmer would still need to be running (to monitor for key presses, etc.), and other items on the dimmer (mainly LEDs), etc. on the device also take power.

A Control4 dimmer takes between 1.5 - 3 watts when not controlling a load. I know that I save at least that much by dimming my lights. I almost never have *any* lights in the house on 100% anymore.

I calculated it out the baseline cost of running my dimmers, that even if my dimmers were each taking 3 watts (3 watts x ~50 dimmers) = 150 Watts * 24 hours/day * 30 days/month / 1000 = 108KwH * .11 (highest rate / KwH in summer) = $12.

That's *worst-case*. Worst case, my dimmers cost me $12 / month, without assuming that I'm saving anything by not turning lights on to 100%.

Best case is 1.5 Watts * 50 * 24 * 30 / 1000 * .08 (normal electricity rate) = $4.32.

Your mileage may vary.

RyanE

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I also did some measurements of what dimming levels represented in terms of energy used / saved for a 100W bulb. I posted this on Control4's internal forums, here's a re-post of what I put there:

Here is my completely non-scientific measurements of a Control4 dimmer dimming a 100W bare bulb.

I measured it using the "Kill A Watt" meter, with the Control4 dimmer plugged into it, so the wattage includes any power lost by the dimmer as well as by the light itself.

More info here: http://www.p3international.com/products/special/P4400/P4400-CE.html You can get them for around $30-$40, on sale for $25ish.

As you can see, the power savings are not quite linear, you have to dim it quite a bit from 100% to get much savings.

I usually leave my office lights at 20-30% at night or less (600W total, so I'm probably using < 150-180 Watts).

100 Watt Bulb, Standard Control4 dimmer.

0% -- 0 Watts

5% -- 6 Watts

10% -- 12 Watts

15% -- 20 Watts

20% -- 26 Watts

25% -- 33 Watts

30% -- 40 Watts

35% -- 46 Watts

40% -- 52 Watts

45% -- 57 Watts

50% -- 62 Watts

55% -- 68 Watts

60% -- 73 Watts

65% -- 78 Watts

70% -- 82 Watts

75% -- 87 Watts

80% -- 91 Watts

85% -- 94 Watts

90% -- 97 Watts

95% -- 99 Watts

100% -- 100 Watts

Man, all 100 Watts is too bright! I've got spots in my eyes!

RyanE

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It's definitely the case that the dimmers save more than they consume, but the dimmer is only a savings if you're replacing a switch. Sure, you can still obtain savings over a non-automated dimmer by using the automation to turn lights off automatically (meaning, hopefully, that they're running only when needed) but that'd be a different calculation.

And thanks for the numbers. The measurements are interesting! At 3W per, a house full of dimmers will use about the same power as an idle computer. Not too terrible. I'll see about setting up an experiment to see what effect the LEDs have on the power consumption.

BTW, if you're dimming halogen lights all the time, be sure to run them at 100% every once in a while. The halogen reaction stops working below a certain temperature and tungsten from the filament can end turning your bulb black. I learned the hard way. :)

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I'm much less likely to walk around the house to verify that all my lights are out and turn off all my manual dimmers than I am to push a single button which turns *all* my house lights off, though.

I also have all of them shut off at 12:30am, regardless of what's going on. It not only ensures we're not burning lights when we don't need, it is a handy notice to me that I'm still up at 12:30am.

:)

RyanE

ETA: I'd bet that the LEDs are not a significant portion of the 3W, but I could be wrong...

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I did a trial run of replacing the eight can lights in my kitchen with GE's dimmable CFL's. They work really well! I did lose the cool ramp up/ ramp down ability, but to save some $ it's worth it. I need to program the dimmer better so it is easier to dim them.

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Yeah, the dimming range for dimmable CFL's is quite a bit lower than incandescents.

You've got a strike value, which you pretty much have to exceed to get them to even turn on, and then a narrow dim range.

I haven't tried any dimmable fluorescents as of yet. I'm hoping they'll get a bit better (cheaper, longer life, better color rendition, etc.) before I get on the bandwagon.

RyanE

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Dimmable CFLs are different than incandescent bulbs, but the design of the C4 dimmer seems to assume incandescent in that the ramp rates are pretty much linear. But there is a clear trend to CFLs, especially with the sunsetting of incandescent by the regulators.

Perhaps C4 might consider a checkbox on the dimmer setup window in Composer where it could be indicated that it is driving a dimmable CFL. Then the ramp rates could be mapped in a non-linear fashion to the characteristics of a CFL. That is, when you specify 10%, you get 10% of the lumens, with Composer adjusting the dimmer output up appropriately to compensate for the CFL operating curve. As more and more CFLs replace incandescents, this will be more important.

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Dimmable CFLs are different than incandescent bulbs, but the design of the C4 dimmer seems to assume incandescent in that the ramp rates are pretty much linear. But there is a clear trend to CFLs, especially with the sunsetting of incandescent by the regulators.

Perhaps C4 might consider a checkbox on the dimmer setup window in Composer where it could be indicated that it is driving a dimmable CFL. Then the ramp rates could be mapped in a non-linear fashion to the characteristics of a CFL. That is, when you specify 10%, you get 10% of the lumens, with Composer adjusting the dimmer output up appropriately to compensate for the CFL operating curve. As more and more CFLs replace incandescents, this will be more important.

This is not how C4 dimmers, or most all other TRIAC based dimmers work. The problem with dimming standard non-dimmable CFLs with TRIAC based dimmers is that a TRIAC based dimmer basically turns the power on/off very very fast during the 60Hz AC cycle. This chops up the sine wave of the 60Hz cycle. This chopped sine wave is OK for incandescents but is very bad for standard CFLs and other devices that can't tolerate the choppy sine wave. This is why C$ specifically states the load types of a C$ dimmer in the installation and user guide.

For more info on how dimmers work please reference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimmer

and

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIAC

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Alan,

Although you're right, he's specifically discussing *dimmable* fluorescents, not your garden-variety CFL's.

If the Control4 dimmer had a 'CFL' light profile, it would be nice, but I wonder how much CFL's vary, and if you'd really need multiple CFL profiles...

Cool idea, nonetheless.

RyanE

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With the price of energy rising across the board, I'm starting to take a hard look at all of the energy consumption in my home. While a home automation system can reduce overall energy use by carefully controlling lighting and heating, the C4 systems are always on, and therefore use a bunch of energy themselves. Before I go sticking a Watts-Up in my equipment closet, I was if anyone has done a detailed study of the C4 hardware. In particular:

1) What's the power consumption of a dimmer (with or without LEDs lit). I'm especially concerned about this, since we have a lot of dimmers!

2) What is the average power consumption of an MC? Does it do any kind of intelligent power management (like turning off parts of the CPU or spinning down the disk when the system is idle?) Or if it uses the disk a lot for some reason, has anyone replaced the disk with an SSD?

3) Does the Mutli-channel Amp power down the amplifiers when there's no signal to be amplified?

4) What's the total idle power consumption of an average house-sized system?

Control4 has a nice eco brochure on its site, but it's marketing. It would be great to have idle/busy power measurements for the entire product line, as well as thermal output (this goes to another part of a component's energy use: keeping it cool!) Anyone with an engineer's perspective?

NO disrespect.........but if you are worried about X $$ a day to run your home system then I dont think C4 or any total home system is for you.

Peace!

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NO disrespect.........but if you are worried about X $$ a day to run your home system then I dont think C4 or any total home system is for you.

First, price varies quite a bit. Here in the Bay Area, a typical customer pays something like $0.12/kwh for the first N kwh's, and it goes up in a step function as N rises. If you use a lot of electricity, the marginal cost for an additional kwh is $0.36. The marginal peak rate on our time-of-use tariff is even higher, something above $0.50 (I don't know because I've never hit it!) On the other hand, when I lived in Seattle, the base was under $0.04 and anything over 10kwh was a whopping $0.10. So simplifying a bit, electricity here is about 3x as expensive as it is in Seattle. And while we're not talking about a lot of money, it sure would be nice to know.

Another variable is that we try to run as much of the house on solar power as possible. During the day, the entire house is drawing something like 2kw, just sitting there with everything optional switched off. Every watt that the house uses during the day is a watt I can't use to offset evening use. So, I'm attacking the "always on" loads, which for me are the HA system and the computers. The computers constitute a large fraction of the total daily use, but since the manufacturers supply precise detail on energy consumption and thermal output I know exactly what their load is. The computers also allow me to make tradeoffs in software (energy savings vs. performance). Sonos provides precise idle and in-use data for its units. I'd just like to have the same understanding of the C4 system.

There's no question that the C4 system can be pretty efficient. Heck, just look at how long a Zigbee remote operates on a couple of AA batteries! It's pretty darn amazing. The question was, just how efficient is it?

Finally, though I did open this thread by mentioning price, we all know it's really not about the money. It's about doing the right thing for our planet and our country. And to me, as an engineer, it's about doing something as well as you can possibly do it.

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If I replace my regular r-30 can light with CFL's (non-dim) can i just change the dimmer to go instant on/instant off or do i need to switch the dimmers to switches?

thanks

tebery

C4 dimmers should not be used for non-dimmable CFLs. If you wish to follow the manufacture recommendations you should switch to a C4 switch.

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GE's dimmable CFL's. They work really well! I did lose the cool ramp up/ ramp down ability, but to save some $ it's worth it. I need to program the dimmer better so it is easier to dim them.

tebery - do these dimmable CFL's look like incandescant bulbs or are they the squiggly kind?

Any idea on cost roughly?

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GE's dimmable CFL's. They work really well! I did lose the cool ramp up/ ramp down ability' date=' but to save some $ it's worth it. I need to program the dimmer better so it is easier to dim them.[/quote']

tebery - do these dimmable CFL's look like incandescant bulbs or are they the squiggly kind?

Any idea on cost roughly?

the dimmable CFL's I am using are GE par30, they look just like regular par bulbs that you would find in recessed cans.

They are not cheap, $17.25 for a 2 pack at Sams Club

http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navigate.do?dest=5&item=362425

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