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Security Systems Going Green
The Editorial Team 2008/6/24

Going green is definitely the trend. As in many other industries, energy-saving concepts are now being incorporated into security solutions, such as home automation and access control systems. Going green is definitely the trend. As in many other industries, energy-saving concepts are now being incorporated into security solutions, such as home automation and access control systems.

Integrated home control systems allow users to not only access home intrusion systems and intercoms but also conserve energy. Schedules can be created through integrated home control systems to automatically control lighting and heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) the two systems that account for the bulk of energy consumption.

"Home owners can adjust the schedule on their own. They can program temperature on thermostats and lighting mode," explained Steve Connor, Product Manager at GE Security.

Individual macros (scenarios) can be programmed so that, with a simple touch of a button, the alarm system is armed, the lights downstairs are turned off and HVAC is turned down. Such controls can cut energy bills by an average of 10 to 20 percent.

Dashboards show readings of utility consumption by putting a flow meter on energy entering the house. "When the user touches the home automation system's control reader, it lights up two graphs one showing electrical energy, the other water," added Connor.

Graphs also show water and electricity usage by day, week and month. "We are tracking everyday consumption, recording it on screen so that users can determine whether they are using more than last month," said Connor.

Such a design helps homeowners better manage utility consumption and offers a gateway for utility companies to provide potential savings. "We program electricity price per kilowatt or per hour, so that it shows how much the user has paid," Connor continued. The graph, he added, indicates not only how much money is saved, but also how many tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) or gallons of water have been conserved.

The system also allows the option of integrating with solar energy panels. If a solar panel is installed, the control dashboard offers a different graph on how much electricity is taken from the grid at the utility company and how much electricity one is putting back into the system from the solar panel. Moreover, corporations are developing sustainable building management to conserve energy. Lighting takes up the most energy as much as 40 percent pointed out Gerrit Reinders, Director of Global Energy and Sustainability Programs at Johnson Controls.

"Efficient lighting management," he said, "can save a lot of energy." While the exact amount saved is hard to predict, said Reinders, it is fair to say, on average, more efficient buildings save between 20 and 40 percent.

"If you add ability to dim lighting," said Reinders, "you can save as much as another 20 to 40 percent. If you integrate motion sensors, you can even save more."

How to Go Green

Johnson Controls security systems talk to building automation systems (BAS). "This means that the access gates, lighting and HVAC are all badge-controlled," said Gene Gregory, Field Support Engineer at Johnson Controls. "The card reader at the security system side gets data of how many people are entering the area, sending the data to the central server, which triggers the conditional state for the BAS based on the activity received on the card reader."

The access control system adds to the occupancy count whenever someone enters a room. It can be programmed to not send an alarm but turn on a light instead.

Moreover, in many new office buildings, building control is managed down to the individual level. "In an office building, there may be a lot of cubicles," said Reinders, "but at any given time, maybe 20 percent of the people may not be there. The problem is that you do not know which 20 percent so you need motion sensors in each cubicle. We have installed personal environment modules in each cubicle to maximize energy efficiency."

Each unoccupied cubicle that is not occupied can, therefore, shut itself down, adjusting the amount of air, temperature, light intensity and heat. "These adjustments are all based on one motion sensor. If the cubicle is unoccupied for a predetermined period of time, everything shuts down," said Reinders.

"Building managers," he added, "can use smaller systems such as chillers and boilers that are easier to maintain. This is just one example of how motion sensors can be integrated into a design to increase flexibility."

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