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Intelligent Homes

16 November 2007

Housing estate managed by Glasbow Housing Association

Glasgow Housing Association has introduced a housing control system for residents that incorporates intelligent energy management and reduced operational costs to fight 'fuel poverty' and improve living conditions

THE GLASGOW HOUSING ASSOCIATION (GHA) cares for more than 80,559 homes. Beginning in 2003 the Association took over tenure with the promise to improve living conditions and in time return ownership to the residents. It was an immense undertaking that is showing commendable results today.

With up to 10 per cent of a household’s income spent on heating alone, the GHA has vowed to fight poverty by providing modern, energy efficient homes.

To fulfil the residential contract and offer the highest level of service, the GHA must upgrade the home automation network every 10-15 years. It must also comply with government regulations, in particular the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT), which calls for at least 50 per cent of energy savings in the UK to come from low income families. As a result, to meet these goals the GHA needed a network that could be easily upgraded and scaled to offer the latest technological advancements.

At the same time, the GHA is committed to reducing heating and energy costs to tackle poverty in its community. This needs an energy management solution that can track and monitor heating and hot water in the individual homes. The system must guarantee continuity of service by immediately alerting system managers of any maintenance issues and have remote access via the Web to allow instant access to the controls.

With the unique requirements of the project relating to energy usage, cost saving and flexibility, TAC was lead by the client to create a customized solution using four building management systems (BMS) based on LON technology. Implementing a LON system allowed TAC to keep the existing building controls solution thus lowering installation and operational costs.

An Ethernet IP-Backbone connects the four independent BMS together, using 12 i.LON® 100 devices from Echelon and 2 TAC Xenta 555 webservers. Both LONMARK certified products use the LON platform which allows products from different manufacturers to communicate. This provides a system that can be effortlessly enhanced with new products in the future. In other words, the GHA can choose the best products from various vendors to meet the changing needs of its tenants.

As Paul Farrelly, a systems controller for the GHA pointed out, “Previously, GHA was locked in to proprietary systems with single source suppliers for software and hardware. LON allowed us to select products independently of the vendor. If a particular dealer’s product did not have the functionality we needed or we considered a product too expensive, then we could easily choose another vendor’s product, safe in the knowledge that it would seamlessly integrate with other LON based products. Now the system is scalable and has given us the scope to keep on adding to the network and ultimately improve the lives of our tenants.”

The i.LON® 100 and TAC Xenta 555 play an integral role in the maintenance and service provided to the homes and DHW facilities. Should a tenant experience loss of service or a plant inexplicably shut down, the BMS will signal an alarm over the Internet via fax, SMS, or e-mail to the on-duty manager. The issue can be dealt with immediately, sometimes even before the residents know there is a problem, reducing down-time of the supply facilities as well as ensuring the best care for residents. Furthermore, because faults can be directly handled, maintenance costs are lower.

Also contributing to reducing the cost of repairs is the peer to peer design of the LON system. When a device breaks, the entire network is not influenced so the cost of upkeep is limited to the actual problem. This also guarantees that when a fault occurs the entire housing community is not affected.

With the newest edition to the intelligent network, the TAC Vista, the systems work together to log and monitor energy consumption in the service plant and up to 3,500 households, shelters, and offices. Over 600 TAC controllers monitor water supply and heating. Using outside weather data from the Internet, the HVAC controllers adjust the temperature in the buildings, reducing or increasing heat based on outside conditions. Similarly, the hot water supply is monitored and managed at a constant temperature to ensure continuity of service and maintain reduced heating energy costs. In addition, the LON network allows the autonomous control systems to instantly share the recorded data. The aggregate energy expenditure information can be analysed and compared to the climate in order to find new methods of energy conservation. With this, the GHA can work to further lower energy usage and costs for its residents to reduce poverty.

The LON platform also allows the GHA to cut down on its training expenditures. All devices communicate over the same protocol so the system integrator does not need to specialize in each section of the network. One person can be trained to maintain the entire solution from HVAC to security. Conveniently, when the network is expanded, no further training is required to implement the new device into the LON network. This is a great advantage for the GHA who use its own in-house building management team to install and engineer new devices, and maintain the system.

However, the effort is not limited to the intelligent housing control solution. The GHA has an extensive partnership with its tenants in which the Association covers issues like energy management. With helpful tips such as “lowering the thermostat by 1 degree Celsius will take 10 per cent off the heating bill” and “closing the curtains at dusk to help retain heat inside the home”, the Association takes energy saving one step further.

The combined efforts of the GHA and the LON based control system have lead to energy efficient homes that keep costs down. As Gavin Holvey, a TAC UK Ltd. system integrator who worked on the GHA project, knows LON offers the GHA more opportunities in terms of energy and green buildings. “The GHA relationship does not end with TAC now that the system has been integrated. The possibilities are endless with the solution being able to expand into such divisions as security, lighting, and access control.”

More info
Link: TAC UK Ltd

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