1800s Barn Provides High-Tech, Energy Efficient Escape
Home of the Year Gold Winner for Unique Space. From Savant control to LED lighting, every piece of technology in this renovated barn was chosen for its low energy consumption. The goal was to use technology ... to get away from it.
Lisa Montgomery · August 21, 2016
More than 100 years ago, the barn that now occupies a pristine piece of property in the Catskill Mountains functioned as all barns do, by housing livestock, feed, and farm implements.
But that was then, and this is now, and based on the level of technology recently incorporated into the relocated and refurbished building, you’d never guess that its roots date back to before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
Functional and Frugal Lighting
Thanks to its purposeful orientation to the sun and the addition of dozens of controllable LED fixtures, this unique dwelling never lacks light, yet it remains extremely energy efficient. The Lutron HomeWorks system that was installed and programmed by the New York City-based home systems integration firm Cloud9 Smarthome ensures that the lighting in this “green” home operates only when necessary and only at the most appropriate brightness level, which according to Jordan Wills, director of marketing, is 80 percent.
The HomeWorks system was integrated with a Savant home control system, which enables the homeowners to press one button on a tablet or iPhone to turn off every fixture. If they plan to be gone for more than a day, they can pull up the Savant TrueControl app to activate a “vacation” setting, which turns the lights on and off randomly to mimic occupancy.
“This adds a level of security by making the house look as if someone is home,” Wills explains.
The owners maintained some vintage charm of the residence with the modern lighting by turning an old-fashioned punch-clock (pictured opposite page) into a keypad that can be used to control select groups of LED lights. The specially-designed “keypad” fits right in with the reclaimed doors, sinks, and light fixtures.
A Technological Escape
Lighting isn’t the only technological component helping the owners of this repurposed barn lead a greener, simpler, more efficient lifestyle.
“Their goal from the start was to use technology in order to get away from it,” Wills says. “Every piece of electronic equipment was chosen for its low-consumption of electricity. No cable or phone service was ordered; only Internet, with Wi-Fi extending down to the pond as their only link to the outside world.”
Even the home’s one and only TV, a 55-inch Sony, is “disconnected,” as the cord-cutting homeowners rely on an Apple TV as their only video source.
Getting away from it all was, in fact, the main impetus for the renovation, which involved moving the barn from Vermont to a secluded piece of property in the Catskills. When the owners arrive to their getaway — by electric car, of course — they press a button on a Lutron remote that’s clipped to the visor of their vehicle, and the 4,500-square-foot home rolls out the welcome mat. Configured by Cloud9, this Welcome scene activates a preset group of energy-efficient LED lights for a safe, stumble-free nighttime arrival.
If the owners would also like music to greet them, they can pull up a Savant mobile app on their smartphones to turn on a mix of vintage and modern McIntosh and Bang & Olufsen audio equipment and have their favorite tunes delivered to a variety of speakers that Cloud9 placed inside and outside the barn.
Just as the Savant system ensures that the homeowners never enter a dark house, it guarantees that the temperature is always comfortable upon their arrival — as long as they tap into the Savant app a few days before they plan to reconnect with their rustic getaway.
As Wills explains, the high-mass concrete slab with radiant heating tubes that was poured during the rebuild of the barn is super-efficient but takes two to three days to ramp up to the proper temperature in the winter. The owners kickstart the 8-zone Savant heating system from their smartphones at their primary residence 85 miles away. Once the temperature of the house has reached the ideal level, the radiant floor heating system requires very little energy to maintain it.
Last winter, for example, the homeowners spent just $800 to fuel the system, says Wills. A Big Ass Fans ceiling fan, also controllable remotely or locally via a Savant mobile app, can supplement the heating system by circulating warm air throughout the residence. A traditional fireplace helps out, too. There’s no need for AC. The home stays cool enough in the summer on its own.
The Art of Music Listening
Cloud9 took advantage of one area that was actually primed for the incorporation of cutting-edge technology. The previous owner of the barn had used a portion of the space as a recording studio, and had reinforced the room with 1.5-inch thick walls and acoustically engineered construction.
Photos: Inside This Renovated 1800s Barn
The current owners never planned to record their own music, but benefited from the finely tuned area by calling on Cloud9 to convert it into a high-end listening room. They outfitted it with a Sony HAP-Z1ES high-res audio player, Sony TA-A1ES amplifier, and a pair of top-caliber Sony SS-NA2 ES speakers.
“These three pieces are a match made in heaven and one of the true bargains in hi-fi,” Wills says.
Solar, Tesla and More
So far, the Savant system and its complementary suite of electronic components have afforded the homeowners the opportunity to curb their reliance on energy, and Savant’s Ethernet-based power metering control allows them to monitor their success.
The Smart Energy Monitor, which is attached to the home’s incoming electrical service, captures and logs overall electricity usage and production in real time. The owners view the data via the TrueControl app on their iOS smartphones or tablets. Still, they’re eager to add more as they inch closer to their goals of Net Zero consumption and living off the grid completely.
The solar panels and a Tesla battery scheduled for installation and integration with the Savant system could be the final technological twist this homestead needs to disconnect and function independently — much like it did 200 years ago.
Systems & Equipment
- Home Control: Savant
- Lighting Control: Lutron
- Energy Management: Savant
- Whole House Audio/Video: Savant
- Audio System: McIntosh Labratories, Bang & Olufsen
- Surveillance Cameras: Axis
- Speakers: Bowers & Wilkins, Sony, Spendor
- TVs: Sony
- Systems Design & Installation: Cloud9 Smarthome, New York, N.Y., c9ny.com
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Lisa Montgomery has been a member of the CE Pro and Electronic House editorial teams for nearly 20 years; most of that time as the Editor of Electronic House. With a knack for explaining complex high-tech topics in terms that average consumers can understand, her style of writing resonates with people who are interested in adding electronic systems to their homes, but are unsure of the steps involved and the solutions available. From basic lighting control systems to full-blown automation systems, Lisa understands the home electronics market well, and is able to point consumers in the right direction on their quest for a smarter, more convenient, efficient and enjoyable home. Over the years, she has developed close relationships with key manufacturers and seasoned custom electronics professionals, giving her a keen sense of what home technologies are hot now and what is on the horizon. She shares this wisdom regularly through feature stories, product roundups, case studies technology spotlights and comprehensive guides and books. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org
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