Smart Houses Do The Thinking For Energy-conscious Residents

High-tech Severna Park Home Will Be County's First

April 20, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

Houses can be sturdy, attractive, even energy-efficient. But smart?

Walter D. Palmer says his company is about to build the most intelligent house in Anne Arundel County.

Using technology made available last August, Palmer's Arnold-based construction and design company will break ground on the county's first Smart House this week in Severna Park.

Palmer, president of The Palmer Companies, said he decided to offer the Smart House technology in his homes after becoming convinced the system is "the wave of the future."

"Electricity gets more expensive all the time," he said. "Building houses to save energy is the smart way to go."

A Smart House can actually be any style of house built of any type of material, Palmer said. The primary difference between traditional construction and Smart House construction is in the wiring and electrical system used.

In a Smart House, the electrical system is hooked up toa centrally located computer, which allows the homeowner to program all kinds of functions, such as having lights go on at certain times of day. The heating system can be programmed to lower the heat at night and turn it back up during the day. Heat and air conditioning can be zoned to certain parts of the house.

"We live in these big houses. . . it's crazy to heat the whole house and rooms that aren't being used," Palmer said.

The system also can make life more convenient. Most frequently used lights can be set on automatic switches to gooff when you leave the room. A single VCR can be used to view a tapefrom any television in the house. The water heater can be programmedto operate only when hot water is needed, a big energy-saver.

Also, security systems can be turned on and off by calling the system bytelephone. The telephone can be used to control all the functions, such as turning lights on and off, checking to see if the iron or stove was left on or turning up the heat before arriving home at the end of the day.

Palmer estimated a Smart House used effectively can save up to 40 percent on annual energy bills. Although Smart House costs more to put in initially, Palmer says it will not cost more to maintain.

The house he's starting this week, off Benfield Boulevard, is a five-bedroom, 3,600-square-foot Colonial, bought by an engineer and his family. Palmer said the Smart House system added about $10,000to the cost of the $300,000 house.

It will cost about $7,000 to add the Smart House system to an average 2,000 square-foot house, he said.

Patti Montague, director of communications for the Smart House Limited Partnership, said it costs an average $12,000 to $15,000 tomake a 2,500 square-foot home a Smart House. Smart House, trade nameof the Upper Marlboro-based company, markets all the products neededfor the electrical system.

Although Palmer will be the first builder to construct such a house here, Montague said other builders haveexpressed interest in the system. She said she expects four or five local builders will be using Smart House technology within the next few years.

Palmer has a total of 50 lots in Linthicum, Severna Park, Odenton and Davidsonville where homeowners could buy a Smart House.His company constructs about 50 custom-built houses in the county each year.

There are only a handful of Smart Houses already built inthe state, Montague said, including ones in Frederick, Bowie and Woodlawn. The demonstration house in Bowie, on 7205 Quisinberry Road, isopen Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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