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14Oct

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting!

by Martyn

Case Study – Christchurch London

We had been cleaning and changing high-level Lighting at the Church for many years, at 120W each and mountains of them, the heat losses from them alone were huge.

There was some serious energy being consumed here, and not in a useful manner.

One day we got a call out as half the lights were out and most of the rest were behaving erratically. It was a 1980’s install on stage lighting dimmers, state of the art for the time.

We set about diagnosing the issues, unsurprisingly it was not the lamps. The control for the lighting was 54 switches on a panel, this was going to be fun!

It appeared there were some fried electronics in the switch panel and some of the dimmer packs had blown fuses, replacing the fuses did nothing. This system was long obsolete and was going to need expensive component-level repair. Not the best news for a small congregation.

I laid out the options to the churchwarden, we discussed several solutions. The main issue was how we would address the 8.5kW of dimmable lighting, that’s huge.

Modern LED Lighting

LED lamps have come on massively and Lighting manufacture Bell had a direct replacement for our PAR38 120w lamps. A 14w fully dimmable lamp with a stated life of 25000 hours. Amazing! It actually felt like real quality too.

Lighting Lighting Lighting. Bell Lighting PAR38 14w Dimmable lamp

Bell Lighting PAR38 14w Dimmable lamp

Decision number one done! Let’s cut the energy usage, save on maintenance, and make the choice for new dimmers easier.

The number one suggestion was always going to be Loxone. Not because it is great but because this Church already had it installed and running the plant room.

That meant money savings for the Church. Half of what they would need was already there and working.

The Solution

The proposal was to add six Loxone Dimmer Extensions and a Loxone Relay Extension.

The existing dimmer controls were huge, they were wall mounted in the basement. Great, plenty of space to mount a new enclosure in exactly the right spot for the wiring.

The mains wiring to each of the lighting circuits was all ok. After a few light fittings were repaired from heat damage caused by the old lamps everything tested perfectly.

We set about constructing what would become the new lighting control panel. A fairly basic panel, we reused the existing 3 phase supply and added individual circuit protection for each group of lights.

We needed to link our new panel into the existing Loxone system. Loxone works on a 2 wire CAN bus, same as most modern cars. It is essentially a data connection that just connects all the modules, dimmers, and relays together. All we needed was to find the end of the existing bus and add a 2 wire link to our shiny new lighting control panel. Done.

User Lighting Controls

In the old system, we had the 54 switches on the wall, not the best! We discussed at length with the Rector and the churchwarden how and when they used the Church.

We needed to understand when they wanted lighting and for what purpose, Loxone excels in Scene and Motion-based lighting.

I wanted to make the new controls much more user-friendly and visually acceptable too.

The Church already had an iPad on the wall which they used for the heating controls. This was to be the new lighting control point.

Between us, we came up with 8 presets, Scenes if you like, for the lighting. Things like ‘all on’, a rare need but useful for cleaning. And a more useful scene called Early Service. this was something they would use every week for the first Sunday morning service. We had gone from pressing a sequence on the 54 buttons to one tap on the iPad screen.

With part of the Church also having been rewired, we once again extended the Loxone system. It now manages the outside lighting and the new shower room heating and ventilation.

Loxone is a real all-round system. There is very little that cannot be controlled, managed, or integrated with to provide ultimate flexibility in energy use or simply user convenience.

Lighting Lighting Lighting, The final result

The final result, A beautifully re illuminated church roof and Stained glass Windows. Loxone dimmers, and controls by SavvySpaces.

13Oct

Electricity, But not as you know it.

by Martyn

Electricity, But not as you know it…

This is a follow on blog from ‘The Gas Alternative‘. We expand on the same installation with the Victron ESS System.

The initial driver and customer spec was the ability to maintain a power supply in the event of a power outage.

A generator was naturally the first option. We sought a much cleaner, greener, and frankly quieter option.

Just like the vast majority of people in the UK we use electricity constantly and unconsciously. This was unlikely to change. We needed to design a system that could minimise peak usage and protect us from power cuts.

We already had Loxone in the background and we wanted to build on that for managing our electrical needs. The Victron Energy ESS was our final choice.

Victron ESS

Together with Victron ESS, we installed a small Solar PV array of 2kW. This is made up of six solar panels.

The solar output goes into something called an MPPT. Just think of this as a converter. Like your phone charger. You plug it into mains and it gives you a few volts out to charge the phone.

The solar panels produce around 200 volts and our batteries are 48v, The PV Charger does this conversion for us.Victron ESS Electricity

We take power from the panels and convert it to power that the batteries can store or be used by the inverter.

So, the inverter, we installed a Victron Multiplus 2 for the work of charging our batteries at cheaper rates overnight.

The inverter converts that stored energy into something we can run the house on during peak (expensive) periods.

That’s two sources to charge our batteries, the Sun via the panels and the grid overnight.

We installed four batteries which will store 14.5kW of useable energy. We can add more batteries in under an hour if we want more storage.

Typical System Layout

 

One of the huge disadvantages of Solar inverters is that they don’t work during a power cut. This was not an option for our customers or ourselves.

We wanted a system that had excellent resilience regardless of external influences such as a power cut

Victron Energy offers us this and lots more.

A Victron inverter is always on. The system operates a two-way connection to the consumer unit (fuse box).

This can be used to charge the batteries during the night and can provide power into the home during the day.

Victron ESS and Grid Requirements

Victron Anti Islanding Relay

Anti Islanding Relay

There are strict rules that we must follow for ESS installations. The Victron inverter is not tied to the grid. We need to ensure power is not capable of outputting power (exporting) to the grid during a power cut. These are generally referred to as G98 / G99 Requirements.

Ultimately they are there to protect the people who may be involved in fixing the grid during power cuts from electric shock.

To this end, we needed to install another Victron product and a small custom transfer panel for power cuts.

This monitors our power supply coming in for deviation from normal values. When this happens it physically disconnects us from the network.

With Victron ESS (Energy Storage System) we can also choose to disconnect ourselves from the grid. Electricity tariffs from Octopus such as Agile (Discontinued) made this very attractive.

Backup

Our custom panel operates and changes over very fast. Clocks do not lose their time and most things do not even notice. Loxone then takes over to control and monitor backup mode, which has its own permanent backup.

The ability to control our own stored energy is vital for future independence and cost savings.

Such levels of control are not possible with other products such as the Tesla PowerWall 2. Tesla manages and controls that system themselves. This arrangement is only attractive whilst generous tariffs exist, as we all know, these are fast disappearing.

Monitoring the grid current and voltage provides the Victron ESS system with power cut information.  Watching the system switch the home to using solar and stored battery energy unaided is very impressive.

Loxone

The Loxone Miniserver Monitors and reports the system status during the outage. We can see the battery level and remaining time until either the sun has set, or our batteries have died, whichever happens last.

Loxone Central Power Management

Loxone Central Power Management

Loxone also has a fully managed load shedding system. If the need arises it can shut down none essential items to preserve battery capacity.

Initially, the customer wanted to prove the system would do what they wanted without necessarily incurring the expense of top-end batteries. Lead-acid batteries were the obvious choice, these are cheap and have severe limitations. They have limited discharge capability under any meaningful load and they cannot go below 50%.

 

PylonTech Batteries

PylonTech Batteries

The batteries we have now installed are the PylonTech 3000C these can discharge to 95%. This depth of discharge makes them infinitely better than lead-acid and gives around 12 hours of use in a power cut.

The form factor of these batteries is such that they mount in a standard 19″ network Rack.

Summary

There are a multitude of options on the market today for monitoring and managing your energy. From the Tesla Powerwall 2 to the ultra cheaper Chinese offerings. The number one complaint we see is system viability in terms of transparent data and controllability of your own energy.

With this system, our customers have complete control without any reliance on any manufacturer to permit cycling for example. This means there is no reliance on supplier tariffs or any contracts.

In independent research from the Battery Test Centre in Canberra, Australia, PylonTech is outperforming some of the world’s leading brands.

With Victron ESS and Loxone for off-grid and load control, we think this is a very difficult system to beat.

10Oct

The Gas Alternatives

by Martyn

The Gas Alternatives.

Part of our energy management series.

With soaring energy prices being part of the new normal, it is now time to consider how we might mitigate against the effects and find gas alternatives.

Planning for a future without natural gas is not going to be easy, we have some answers.

Producing, storing, and using your own energy is now a huge topic. Since 2011 I have been developing such systems together with early adopters.

I am a self-confessed geek. I’m actively interested in all things energy and control, here are a few thoughts and some real-world scenarios.

For most people, thinking about the energy they use and how it arrives is not high on the list of weekend thoughts. But, what if you installed a system in your home, office, or workplace that saved resources and reduce your bills significantly?

What if it did not demand you reduce your consumption or required you to do any real thinking about it at all?

Sound too good to be true? Keep reading…

Some of our most interesting projects are the ones where our customers barely notice them, apart from the huge reduction in their bills of course!

With products from Loxone, Victron, and PylonTech this is not only possible, but it is also easy to achieve.

A solution…

Let’s talk about a system installation in a modest 3-bed semi-detached house in the burbs…

We came to this project quite late in the planning and implementation stage. Our original task was simply to remove an existing boiler and install a new one (and control it somehow).

The customer had already started work on the new kitchen extension and remodeling downstairs. When I first saw the project the solar thermal guy was starting the new system that week.

It appeared this might have been one of their first jobs with any level of complexity. The plumbers who did a bit of work for the solar thermal company seemed a bit out of their depth.

To cut a long story short, the solar thermal company finished the work on the roof and connected it to the thermal store. They got the basic system working and then we took over the remainder of the plumbing and controlled everything with Loxone.

The solar thermal stayed on its own controller, a very basic Sorel unit. The customer kept it until warranty issues were fixed as it was what the installer knew.

The system now had lots of new functions to control. Just for the basic heating, we had upstairs and downstairs radiators and towel rails in the bathrooms. There were 5 areas of underfloor heating and a wood burner, which also heated the thermal store.

With the new backup Gas boiler now going in soon, we were looking at multiple little white boxes with clocks, timers, settings, and reams of instruction manuals!

Not a great look for an easy-to-use modern eco-friendly gas alternative system.

White Boxes Galore

I think we actually had ten or eleven separate controllers all needing setting up and programming. None of them knew what the others were doing or planning on doing. The stuff of nightmares when you just want heat, the clocks need changing or after a power-cut.

The customer was a little exasperated and exclaimed ‘There must be a better way’, sadly there was nothing on the market then, I am still not aware of anything available out of the box.

I said to the customer I could custom build a little box to control everything as one system, he was intrigued.

Loxone

I was already using Loxone so my thought process was fairly straightforward. A bunch of inputs, a bunch of output, and a bit of programming. The customer was very tech-savvy and capable so was eager to learn more and to understand what I was proposing.

Being very tech-savvy, they were all too well aware of computer and hardware failures.

Throughout the project ‘resilience’ was a keyword.

I started explaining my thoughts, the benefits, and virtually endless possibilities of the Loxone control system.

Basically, you can give it any signals as inputs. Temperature, times, flow rates, Sun position, states of switches, etc.

With the given inputs you can control virtually anything as outputs on whatever basis you like.

As an example, we can enter the date and location in the world, Loxone then knows the sun’s position and the expected solar energy for the day.

Loxone has the outside temperature and that of every room inside, together with the water temperatures in the Thermal Store.

It knows our heating schedule and it knows when we want hot water available for showering.

With all the collected information, Loxone decides if the boiler will be needed that day or if the Sun will suffice.

So that was it the solution was Loxone.

Loxone User Interface.

Loxone Thermal store systems. The Gas alternative

Loxone Managing the thermal store systems

Hot Water

The boiler had now been fitted and we started to think about controls again.

We also had hot water and a return circulation pump to think about. We didn’t want the pump to run 24/7 but when would we run it? Yet another timer?

The loop stops there being a long wait for hot water to arrive, wasting lots of cold water. We timed the loop from going out hot to getting back hot, 45 seconds. That’s a lot of wasted energy and water!

Eventually, we decided the circulation pump would start based on movement in the home. Easy, we would just use the alarm sensors in the corners. These were already there and already connected to Loxone. we just used any movement to start the pump and stop it a few minutes later.

There is always the override if something changes. The boiler also has an option to provide direct hot water in emergencies. All our installations have resilience built-in.

Today the customer has fully embraced Loxone, it manages most things in the house. All the usual things such as motion-controlled lighting, heating, security, plant watering, multiroom audio are Loxone managed.

So, we had solar thermal on the roof which provided a 700-litre tank full of lovely free hot water. The thermal store tank of water) had two backup heat sources. A 22kw wood-burning stove and the conventional gas boiler for those emergencies we talked about above.

The thermal store also has an electric heating element, an immersion heater. These are generally not the best, but…

Amazing when the electricity suppliers pay you to use electricity and the batteries are full… We’re coming to that bit.

Solar & Wood burner.

In the warmer months, we have the sun doing the majority of the water heating needs, and in the cooler months the cosy wood burner.

Loxone EX22 Wood burner. The Gas alternative

Loxone managing the EX22 Wood burner

The wood burner is a real jewel. A beautiful Woodfire EX22, a feature in the lounge with a hidden water jacket. Get cosy, all whilst your water is heated. Renewable alternative to gas with perfect controls.

You‘d be forgiven for thinking there’s not enough sun year-round for solar thermal in the UK however, the solar array on the roof is made up of ‘evacuated tubes‘.

Simply put, this means the liquid that runs around them and into the thermal store boils and evaporates up the tubes at closer to 20 degrees on the roof.

This then heats the water in our thermal store via a circulating liquid. Think of it as a kettle. The element in the bottom of the thermal store looks similar, rather than the electricity it has boiling liquid running through it.

For the home’s heating needs, the thermal store provides the underfloor heating from the cooler section at the bottom. The radiators and towel rails are from the top where the stored water is much hotter.

Loxone System Schematic

Loxone System schematic

Simplified Loxone system schematic for solar thermal and hot water

Hot water is also provided from the thermal store via a second heat coil immersed inside. Again, like a kettle but this time in reverse. The water in the kettle (thermal store) is hot, we put cold water into the coil which comes out hot.

This means we have mains pressure hot water at far faster rates than a normal combi boiler could deliver. Filling a bath is super fast!

We are constantly looking to bring you the very best Gas alternatives. Fossel fueled appliances are disappearing fast, solutions such a these are the real-world alternatives. And they work in the real world.

Once we had the water and space heating requirements done we moved on to the electrical needs…

If you enjoyed this blog we’d love to hear your comments below, Have a read through our solutions for greener, cheaper electricity too.

 

9Oct

Welcome to the Blog!

by Martyn

Welcome To The Blog!

Apparently, it is customary to introduce yourself when starting one of these. Who came up with this rule? Surely you only start your blog once!

So that’s the question of the day out of the way! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Martyn. I started planning what has become SavvySpaces quite a while ago now.

I have always had a strong interest in how things work (or don’t). Apparently, this all started as a 4-year-old nightmare kid sticking his fingers in a lamp without a bulb!

Well, I grew up, now I know bulbs only grow in your garden and the lamp was the thing missing from that table lamp!

Fast forward a few years and I was rewiring the house (11) Mum was not very happy, not sure why. I lived and the house did not burn down! Still, I was banned from the loft and given a dodgy plastic tool kit.

Well, I continued messing about with everything I could. The house did get rewired when I was 18, my 11-year-old self didn’t do too bad in the loft.

I was not really one for education as a kid, school was not for me. I’m fairly sure most people knew I really was not interested in 1066 or the 742 times table. Ironic now as history and architectural history fascinate me.

Toward the end of School, I managed to get my work experience at an Electrical firm in Burnley, SBS Electrical.

That was far more fun than actually going to school, Must have been a nightmare looking back for the company, having a kid wandering around sites with tools and live wires not too far away.

College

I eventually left school and sure enough, I wanted to be an Electrician. I signed up for Accrington & Rosendale College full-time. Me and educational institutes were still not friends!

The first year there drew to a close and lost my head in the final exams. I had moved out of home and had a room in a shared house by this point.

I was and still am very much of the opinion no one can help you unless you are willing to help yourself.

After about a year out working in various jobs, working out what I was going to do, and pulled myself together a bit.

I went for an interview at Burnley College and met a chap called Peter Wright. He was the tutor for Electrical Installation, a thoroughly decent chap who had an amazing way with people. I was once again inspired to train to be an Electrician.

Burnley College was basically home until around 2001 and I credit Peter Wright with this, some tutors just know how to reach students! Unlike School. I left College with Distinction and Merit grades and was in the top 5%, I enjoyed the subject and still do, if a bit geeky at times.

Whilst still at college I had a temporary job with AMF Bowling repairing the 10 pin bowling machines on shifts. I really enjoyed this job, it was very different from basic electrical work and spurred me on to learn more about machinery, controls, motors, drives, etc.

Real Work Time

From there me and a mate jumped in the very deep end and went self-employed. I was 19, We had been offered work wiring up new Pubs and Clubs, the first job was ‘BB11’ in Burnley. The old post office was being converted into a mini nightclub/bar, we were both still at college but no one was bothered if you could do the work.

We worked for the same companies for a good few jobs, I ended up in Skegness on my own rewiring a pub with flats above. At 19 I had well and truly landed out of my comfort zone. The job got finished and I was actually quite pleased, albeit I had lost half my body weight, I was about 8 stone after 6 weeks of 20 hour days. You can do these crazy things as a teenager.

That work soon dried up and I found myself wanting a regular job with regular hours. It wasn’t long after leaving college I was out and about working for Thompson Wills. Pete & Dave (RIP fella) were thoroughly decent guys, an Electrical contractor in Lancashire. They took me on as an improver, I was fresh out of college and learned quite a lot there, I was involved in quite a few commercial and industrial jobs.

After a while there I was offered a job at Rolls Royce over in Barnoldswick I made the move. Another job I enjoyed. There were a few of us there on maintenance, it was a good little team. We had a whole array of tasks from repairing the electrical systems of the aging machinery to installing/moving new machines. Rewiring the factory along the way, some of the installation was 60 – 70 Years old, which was fun if a tad dangerous!

Self-employed for the win

Sadly redundancies followed there and I was moved to a redacted redacted redacted place with a serious amount of security. I did not much enjoy it or the guys with semi-auto’s!

I was soon back to self-employment and traveling the country for a facilities management company. Working on heavy electrical infrastructure in the likes of PC World and Argos Stores, 16 hour ‘nights’. I was replacing the guts of switch-rooms and sleeping in hotels! I really knew how to find the jobs.

That company went bust, me and a college mate went on to work for our own clients, I took on some huge industrial projects of over 100k and some maintenance contracts for private engineering companies. Machinery repairs, etc. I had built a bit of a reputation for being able to fix the older machinery and work on the modern PLC controlled machines alike.

I had managed to get in with a company that had a Tesco build contract in the north at the time. The new Burnley store was to be some of my last work in the north before moving to London in 2003.

The London Move!

That was a big move and a huge change. South London was nothing like the north, or North London as it turns out.

There was no chance I was going to find private commercial clients quickly in the big smoke as a 23-year-old.

Agencies were my first call and looking back it was a good one!

From Met facilities to Waterboard projects I got some great work and experience. The Waterboard works actually got me in with Siemens. I was back to doing 50k jobs on my own for private clients. Pumping stations, Chlorination plants, Boreholes, controls, and panels it was exactly the kind of work I wanted. I even retrained and diversified to doing Gasworks.

The World Crashes

The financial crash of 2008, the world was no fun at all, my other half was involved with the Lehmans Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. A lot of my clients were drastically scaling back their operations.

A move was on the cards. we sold up to move to Chesham, just North West of London.

Another new start but armed with experience and knowledge that set me apart from a lot of domestic electricians.

Enter Loxone. And a bit more diversification. Loxone is not greatly different from the PLC and BMS stuff I had been doing for a good chunk of my career. Just more visually pleasing and at that time firmly aimed at the domestic home automation and custom install markets.

For a good few years now my work has been a mixture of controls and complex systems mixed with some of the more basic electrical and commercial gas projects.

I enjoy nothing more than getting stuck into AutoCAD to plan and design panels, controls, and smart installations.

The World Crashes… Again

Recently I have taken to custom work. It’s good fun designing products, having them made, and then selling them.

With the closure of Loxone’s web-shop to non-partners, a facility where past present, and future clients can access products without necessarily having to pay us to install them.

Have a read through some of my blogs on here, hopefully they will inspire you on current projects and technology for your properties!

Always happy to help drop me a line and let’s chat!

Thanks for reading! Brew time!

Case Study – Christchurch London

We had been cleaning and changing high-level Lighting at the Church for many years, at 120W each and mountains of them, the heat losses from them alone were huge.

There was some serious energy being consumed here, and not in a useful manner.

One day we got a call out as half the lights were out and most of the rest were behaving erratically. It was a 1980’s install on stage lighting dimmers, state of the art for the time.

We set about diagnosing the issues, unsurprisingly it was not the lamps. The control for the lighting was 54 switches on a panel, this was going to be fun!

It appeared there were some fried electronics in the switch panel and some of the dimmer packs had blown fuses, replacing the fuses did nothing. This system was long obsolete and was going to need expensive component-level repair. Not the best news for a small congregation.

I laid out the options to the churchwarden, we discussed several solutions. The main issue was how we would address the 8.5kW of dimmable lighting, that’s huge.

Modern LED Lighting

LED lamps have come on massively and Lighting manufacture Bell had a direct replacement for our PAR38 120w lamps. A 14w fully dimmable lamp with a stated life of 25000 hours. Amazing! It actually felt like real quality too.

Lighting Lighting Lighting. Bell Lighting PAR38 14w Dimmable lamp

Bell Lighting PAR38 14w Dimmable lamp

Decision number one done! Let’s cut the energy usage, save on maintenance, and make the choice for new dimmers easier.

The number one suggestion was always going to be Loxone. Not because it is great but because this Church already had it installed and running the plant room.

That meant money savings for the Church. Half of what they would need was already there and working.

The Solution

The proposal was to add six Loxone Dimmer Extensions and a Loxone Relay Extension.

The existing dimmer controls were huge, they were wall mounted in the basement. Great, plenty of space to mount a new enclosure in exactly the right spot for the wiring.

The mains wiring to each of the lighting circuits was all ok. After a few light fittings were repaired from heat damage caused by the old lamps everything tested perfectly.

We set about constructing what would become the new lighting control panel. A fairly basic panel, we reused the existing 3 phase supply and added individual circuit protection for each group of lights.

We needed to link our new panel into the existing Loxone system. Loxone works on a 2 wire CAN bus, same as most modern cars. It is essentially a data connection that just connects all the modules, dimmers, and relays together. All we needed was to find the end of the existing bus and add a 2 wire link to our shiny new lighting control panel. Done.

User Lighting Controls

In the old system, we had the 54 switches on the wall, not the best! We discussed at length with the Rector and the churchwarden how and when they used the Church.

We needed to understand when they wanted lighting and for what purpose, Loxone excels in Scene and Motion-based lighting.

I wanted to make the new controls much more user-friendly and visually acceptable too.

The Church already had an iPad on the wall which they used for the heating controls. This was to be the new lighting control point.

Between us, we came up with 8 presets, Scenes if you like, for the lighting. Things like ‘all on’, a rare need but useful for cleaning. And a more useful scene called Early Service. this was something they would use every week for the first Sunday morning service. We had gone from pressing a sequence on the 54 buttons to one tap on the iPad screen.

With part of the Church also having been rewired, we once again extended the Loxone system. It now manages the outside lighting and the new shower room heating and ventilation.

Loxone is a real all-round system. There is very little that cannot be controlled, managed, or integrated with to provide ultimate flexibility in energy use or simply user convenience.

Lighting Lighting Lighting, The final result

The final result, A beautifully re illuminated church roof and Stained glass Windows. Loxone dimmers, and controls by SavvySpaces.

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