A new showcase house, “Green Life Smart Life,” was recently completed in Narragansett, R.I. It should be of great interest to electrical contractors, despite the fact that it used 50 percent less wire than a conventional home of the same size.

Smart homes are becoming more attractive to owners. The pace of construction or renovation will accelerate as utility companies roll out smart meters. This is already occurring in California and at smaller, progressive utilities around the country. Most other utilities are in various phases of implementing smart meters. Pacific Gas & Electric, for example, has installed approximately 1.5 million smart meters and hopes to complete 10.3 million more by 2011.

Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, is starting to get buyer inquires from California about smart appliances. GE has appliances available for shipping and is ready for mass production as demand develops, even supplying swappable demand-response modules for various wireless protocols to communicate with smart meters. These are only a few examples of how growing grid intelligence is impacting new construction and will be affecting upgrades to older homes.

For electrical contractors, these developments present new, broader opportunities for those prepared to service the new wave of technology. In short, less wire will create a different service model and more business.

The 4,350-square-foot Green Life Smart Life house portends of things to come: achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes (LEED-H) certification, the voluntary initiative aimed at transforming home building into more sustainable practices. As a demonstration project, it features the latest advances in lighting; heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) control; security and surveillance; energy management; and distributed entertainment. From centralizing a control hub to eliminating hundreds of feet of wiring to specifying low-VOC conduit for future accessibility, the technology partners hope to set standards to achieve maximum LEED-H points while helping homeowners minimize energy costs.

Every electronic device was reviewed in terms of annual wattage, load requirements and integration with other subsystems before being approved by the design team. The home used 50 percent less wire than a project of comparable size, and the wire supplied by Leviton met the standards of the Consumer Electronics Association’s TechHome Rating System.

The energy-management system from Control4 communicates with the meter through a wireless ZigBee device and interfaces with the Internet using Ethernet. Control4 automates lighting, security, audio, video, and climate control as well as sheds appliance loads during nonuse periods, schedules maximum energy efficiency and monitors all loads with real-time analysis of usage and savings. A Lutron lighting control driver can be programmed on the Control4 to include a high-end trim of 85 percent for every connected light and has automatic control of motion and occupancy sensors. Security and surveillance uses Black & Decker automated locks.

To be at the forefront of a hot industry, it is worthwhile to explore the certification programs offered by smart-home technology companies. There is opportunity for more profit while delivering energy savings to customers.

For more details on the many partners involved, visit www.greenlifesmartlife.com.